Critical Path Method (CPM)

Definition - What does Critical Path Method (CPM) mean?

The critical path method (CPM) is a step-by-step methodology, technique or algorithm for planning projects with numerous activities that involve complex, interdependent interactions. CPM is an important tool for project management because it identifies critical and non-critical tasks to prevent conflicts and bottlenecks. CPM is often applied to the analysis of a project network logic diagram to produce maximum practical efficiency.

Techopedia explains Critical Path Method (CPM)

CPM is commonly employed in many diverse types of projects. These include product development, engineering, construction, aerospace and defense, software development and research projects. Several CPM software solutions are available.

The basic steps employed in CPM are:

  1. Determine required tasks
  2. List required tasks in sequence
  3. Create a flowchart including each required task
  4. Identify all critical and non-critical relationships (paths) among required tasks
  5. Assign an expected completion/execution time for each required task
  6. Study all critical relationships to determine all possible alternatives or backups for as many as possible

Often a major objective in CPM is to complete the project in the shortest time possible. One way to do this is called fast tracking, which involves performing activities in parallel (simultaneously) and adding resources to shorten critical path durations (called crashing the critical path). This may result in expansion, which leads to increasing project complexity, duration or both.

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