What is critical path method (CPM)? - Definition from WhatIs.com

Definition

critical path method (CPM)

Part of the Project management glossary:

The critical path method (CPM) is a step-by-step project management technique for process planning that defines critical and non-critical tasks with the goal of preventing time-frame problems and process bottlenecks. The CPM is ideally suited to projects consisting of numerous activities that interact in a complex manner.

In applying the CPM, there are several steps that can be summarized as follows:

  • Define the required tasks and put them down in an ordered (sequenced) list.
  • Create a flowchart or other diagram showing each task in relation to the others.
  • Identify the critical and non-critical relationships (paths) among tasks.
  • Determine the expected completion or execution time for each task.
  • Locate or devise alternatives (backups) for the most critical paths.

The origins of CPM:
The CPM was developed in the 1950s by DuPont, and was first used in missile-defense construction projects. Since that time, the CPM has been adapted to other fields including hardware and software product research and development. Various computer programs are available to help project managers use the CPM.

See a brief tutorial explaining CPM:

This was last updated in January 2015
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Related Terms

Definitions

  • critical path

    - The critical path is the longest sequence of tasks in a project plan. Each task must be completed before the next can be begun. (WhatIs.com)

  • negative float (negative slack)

    - Negative float or slack is time that must be made up on a task on a project's critical path so that it does not delay the completion of a project. (WhatIs.com)

  • float (project float, slack)

    - In project management, float or slack is the time span between the completion of the last task on the critical path and the finish date for the project. Essentially, float is margin for error -- th... (WhatIs.com)

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