“When is the Critical Path NOT the Most Critical Path?” has been added to your cart.
Central to any discussion of Project Time Management is something called Relationships, the aspect of Project Execution efforts (and the Schedules that seek to model them) that cause both to be dynamic human endeavors. So what are Relationships?
ICS-Compendium’s answer to this question will not only clarify terminology; it will constitute one of the more glaring examples of how Cognitive Project Management differs from Dominant Project Management with respect to Project Time Management.
In the beginning … there was the Arrow Diagramming Method. In many respects it was quite straight-forward.
Before we can get to the question of Negative Finish-to-Starts, it might be helpful to establish a common understanding of the underlying condition that we are trying to model: Overlapped Activities.
The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is one of Dominant Project Management’s most treasured inventions. One can hardly pick up a book on either Project Management or Project Time Management without being overwhelmed by this term and all of the praise heaped upon it. So popular is WBS that most leading Project Management authorities actually require its implementation in Project Schedule development. This White Paper seeks to dampen this unbridled enthusiasm with a splash of sober reality – about the downside risk of WBS Implementation.
Within the Critical Path Method, as a method of modeling Project Execution Strategy, every Activity in the Project Schedule has Four Basic Calculated Dates associated with it. Here is how the ICS‑Dictionary defines them:
- Earliest Start: An estimate of the earliest possible Calculated Date by which an activity can be reasonably expected to start, assuming the flawless performance of all prior Activities to which the Activity is Logically connected in a Progressive Relationship.
- Earliest Finish: An estimate of the earliest possible Calculated Date by which an Activity can be reasonably expected to finish, assuming the flawless performance of all prior Activities to which the Activity is Logically connected in a Progressive Relationship.
- Latest Start: An estimate of the latest plausible date to which an start may be postponed without rendering as unachievable the required completion of any downstream Deadline Milestones to which the Activity is Logically connected in a Progressive Relationship.
- Latest Finish: An estimate of the latest plausible date to which an finish may be postponed without rendering as unachievable the required completion of any downstream Deadline Milestones to which the Activity is Logically connected in a Progressive Relationship.
Perhaps the greatest challenge to any Project is how to handle the unexpected. Dominant Project Management advocates use of an elaborate set of processes under the heading of Risk Management, which is intended to anticipate major causes of risk and make plans for how to handle them, should they actually arise.
But ICS-Research has discovered that most delays incurred on a construction project are not the result of major events, but rather the cumulative consequence of little things that just “happen.” In the Cognitive vernacular, these are called Dilemmas. This explains why formal Risk Management, while undeniably effective in reigning in mitigating
impacts from major catastrophes, has nevertheless done little to improve Construction’s abysmal temporal track record.
For this reason, Cognitive Project Management advocates development and honing of improvisational skills. Cognitive Project Management puts its managerial focus in the present. And why shouldn’t we? All of our decisions are made in the present. Dilemmas hit in the present. Responses need to occur in the present, as well.
As part of his or her routine duties, a Project Facilitator  may be asked to recommend ways to accelerate a Schedule. The objective would be to discover how to differently utilize Project resources such that one or more Project Execution Commitments are achieved earlier than they would have been without the different course of action.
The Point-of-Day Perspectives refer to the choice that a Project Facilitator makes before performing manual date calculations (either Forward Pass or Backward Pass). This decision affects whether the Earliest Dates (Earliest Start and Earliest Finish) and Latest Dates (Latest Start and Latest Finish) are correct, or are “off by one day.” If this makes no sense just yet, it will by the end of this White Paper.
Today, more than fifty years after the Critical Path Method made its debut, there still is no universally accepted definition for the central term, Critical Path. Among the dozens of more obscure definitions, two conflicting theories dominate scheduling glossaries: the Longest Path interpretation and the Least Total Float Path interpretation.
As this White Paper will expose in its opening pages, these two interpretations are deficient in three major ways.
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