The Victory Path – More Important than the Critical Path?

Critical path and schedule analysis are drummed into every project manager who endures formal project management education. But, is only using this approach to scheduling a project the best way to maximize project success? We don’t think so – in fact relying solely on managing the critical path of a project may provide a significant “pathway” – straight to project failure!

The critical path specifically highlights the series of predecessor-successor tasks that start from project initiation and bring the project to a close. It provides the most direct way to get from the project idea to the coveted successful closure of a project, with all deliverables completed and put to use by the project’s customer. That may not be what a customer wants, even though they will profess that is what they want. Given time pressures and an increasing desire to show results “tomorrow versus the next day”, delivering “early wins” on a project may be the only way a project survives to deliver all of the requested deliverables. This is where the “victory path” comes into play.

The victory path is that series of predecessor-successor tasks that lead from the present state to the production and delivery of an interim deliverable that will “give faith” and/or early business value to sponsor(s) and key stakeholders of the project. This may significantly overlap the critical path, however in many instances it diverges. Managing the “victory path(s)” as you would the critical path may be the key to being “victorious” in the delivery of a project to its full potential. Yes, it means you may not be producing the set of overall project deliverables in the most efficient way. However if the stakeholders are kept happy and business value is derived from interim deliverables, that often overshadows the inefficiencies introduced by utilising a victory path approach.

Are you relying entirely on the critical path for your projects, or do you understand the desires and objectives of your stakeholders enough to realise that a “victory path” might be in order for your project?

Note: If you or your organisation want assistance with understanding, establishing and managing victory paths, you can check out our Recovering Troubled Projects workshop at or drop us a line at and we can arrange a presentation for you and your team to discuss this management approach.