Making the Critical Path a Second Priority?

Project professionals are always taught to focus on the critical path – that string of tasks that constitutes the longest path through your project network, therefore representing the shortest possible time that you can complete a project.

There are times however – especially when recovering a troubled project – that making the critical path tasks a second priority may actually be prudent. During a troubled project, morale is low, and key stakeholders have usually lost faith in the project. It is time for a victory – that is, it is time for a VICTORY PATH.

The victory path is a string of tasks that will create a fast, short term deliverable that adds business value, and/or increases the faith stakeholders have in the project and the project team. A client of ours has put this into practice whilst recovering a troubled project, and the results are promising. They are using the term ”victory path” within the organisation to describe this approach.

Our client sent us this note on the actions they are taking:

“I formulated a ‘strike team’ to ensure we focus on the victory path (key milestones for end of Feb 2010 and May 2010 ) after I had the discussion with my CEO and management here at my location. The “victory path” term is quite appealing to people here since I added it to my vocabulary – it’s got leverage!!!

The strike team is essentially a few of my engineers with 100% of their time ‘striking’ a specific body of work that I planned/scheduled (on a micro task level so I can keep a tighter watch on it).

This approach has re-energised their project and re-engaged senior stakeholders; the first critical steps to successfully recovering a troubled project.

So, another act of intelligent disobedience, going against the norm and focusing on a set of tasks not on the critical path, but those that create a short term deliverable.