Critical Path Made Simple(r)

by Tisha Leslie

Determining the critical path of your project may seem daunting — just look at this ultimate guide to the critical path method we put together for you. It’s an informative read that we recommend for all project managers, but we promise we’ve made it much simpler in practice than it looks in theory. If that doesn’t break down a seemingly complex method for easy digestion, then watch this 60-second tutorial — because even critical path makes more sense when related to food. You won’t even need to write anything down.

What you need to know

What is critical path? In a sentence, a project’s critical path is a high-level look at vital tasks that directly impact its end date. It’s one of the most important tools for project managers to keep their work on track. If just one of those tasks is late by a day, the whole project is late by a day.

It was important to us that our implementation of critical paths in Smartsheet be as simple as possible to quickly relay the information you need to keep your team aligned. First, assign individual task durations and dependent predecessors. Then, view your Gantt chart. With one click of the Critical Path button, you’ll automatically be shown which assignments must be closely managed to meet the project deadline.

There will be some tasks, possibly large ones, which don’t have immediate impact on the length of a project. These floater tasks are allowed slack days before they affect the end date. Reversely, there may be minuscule, quick turnaround assignments that have multiple dependencies and a huge effect on your end date. Keep your critical tasks on track, and you’ll have smooth sailing to the project’s end.