Project Management Guide
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How to Calculate Critical Path in Project Management

Critical path in project management refers to the sequence of tasks essential to your project’s success. It’s the longest series of tasks within your project, and if any of those tasks are delayed, it will push out your project end date. Tasks that aren’t on the critical path can be delayed without impacting your overall schedule.

Many scheduling tools will automatically identify your critical path for you, as long as you build the following key elements into your schedule:

  • All project tasks with start and end dates
  • Task durations
  • Task relationships or dependencies

How to manually calculate critical path in project management

If you’re not using project management software, or just want to double-check things for yourself, here is how to manually calculate the critical path in project management.

  • Identify all your activities or tasks and note their durations and relationships.
  • Build a schedule network diagram, which is a visual sequence of how your tasks interrelate.
  • Identify all possible paths through the diagram, and add up all tasks’ duration to calculate the time to complete each path.
  • The path that has the longest total duration is your critical path.

The benefits of calculating critical path in project management

Once you identify your project’s critical path, you can quickly understand if a delay will impact the overall project and react accordingly. You can prioritize activities on the critical path and reschedule less essential tasks to spread out resources.

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