Topic 3 Benefits of Project Management and Critical Path Method

Small businesses have no room for error, which is why it’s important you meet your project budget and schedule goals. Organize a project at the outset and manage it effectively until completion, and you increase the chances you achieve your objectives on time and within budget.

Example: During project planning to bake a Wedding cake ordered months ago, Emma realizes that some ingredients became more expensive. She decided to look for cheaper products in sale, due to the expiration date (but still in perfect quality) as long as she knows, she will use these ingredients right away. In this case, she will stay on budget and will deliver high quality product.

Projects that spin out of control can tie up an organization’s resources and interfere with other important tasks, because you have fewer workers you can spread around to fill in the gaps. If you want to avoid constant disruptions to your business, you need to implement project management.

Example: Emma´s thorough project planning identified that her occasional colleague is available during the main summer baking season, and she can attach her to tasks that would take place during the most demanding season even though she wasn´t a primary stakeholder.

The difference between project failure and success often comes down to the project manager: Did they devote enough time at the outset to draft a thorough project schedule? Did they closely monitor the project to ensure it was hitting milestones on time, and make adjustments to get back on track when unforeseen obstacles pop up? Small businesses often neglect to put this time and effort into this part of the project and then wonder why they fail to achieve objectives.

Example: Laura noticed while doing regular control of her diary that her cafe place is booked for two Birthday parties at the same day. As long as she noticed this soon enough, she was able to manage enough colleagues to work that day to be able to prepare everything needed and run parties smoothly.

Even in small businesses, you often run into an accountability problem: “I wasn’t responsible for that, you were.” If roles aren’t clearly defined, important tasks fall by the wayside. But good project management ensures that roles are clearly defined and assigned, with no question who is responsible for what, and nothing gets left to chance.

Example: Because Laura (from mentioned cafe place) attached individuals to specific tasks and outlined in detail what they were responsible for, everyone knew when the ball was in their court and all tasks were completed on time.

Good project management includes good documentation, data accumulation, and accountability. Once the project is over, you can go back, assess performance, make educated guesses about what went wrong or right, and make adjustments to future projects. Otherwise, you’re just flailing in the dark, doomed to repeat mistakes or omit successes on the next project.

Example: Laura went through the data after the project (birthday parties) were finished and noticed that through that day her colleagues have to rush to wash plates and cutlery to get them ready if some of the guests want to take a clean plate for another meal. There was an accident and some plates broke. She noticed that if in the future they will be holding two parties at the same time with as many people, they will need more equipment.

The Critical Path Method identifies the longest sequence of dependent tasks within a project. If those tasks are completed on time, the project can be completed at the earliest date possible. It also identifies the tasks that can be completed in parallel to critical tasks with buffer time around them. By prioritizing tasks that have no buffer time and completing other tasks around them, project managers can efficiently keep projects progressing to an on-time completion.

Example of Critical Path Method Process
Let’s look at a real-world example by walking through the process of baking a cake. To figure out the critical path, first identify all the activities within the project’s execution. Then, identify activity dependencies—or activities that must be completed one after another. Next, decide which ones are part of the critical path—or the longest sequence of dependent tasks. Also, decide which activities can be completed in parallel to critical path activities. Finally, map the project’s critical path and parallel activities.

Listing Project Tasks Example
As a very basic example, when baking a cake, the general steps are as follows:

1. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix them well.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Pour the ingredients into a greased baking pan.
4. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes.
5. Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool for one hour.
6. Make the frosting.
7. Frost the cake.
8. Identifying a Project’s Critical Path Example

Critical Path Diagram Example
To demonstrate which activities are part of the critical path and which are not, project managers create a diagram. The diagram uses boxes to show which tasks are part of the critical path (have no float time) and which can be completed in parallel to those tasks (have flexibility in when they can be completed). The below graph is a basic example of a critical path diagram. Note that the critical path is highlighted in red and parallel tasks in yellow.