Critical Path

Critical Path


When a project is underway, there are some activities that affect the project’s ability to move forward. Those critical activities need to be completed or the project stalls. The project manager needs to look carefully at each of the tasks in a project and compute the earliest start (ES) and earliest finish (EF) and also the latest start (LS) and latest finish (LF) time for each task.

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Here is a simplified example: to paint a room, the person doing the taping of the edges plans to start at 7 AM (ES) and he will be done about 8:30 (EF). Since the painting contractor starts work at 9, the latest the taper can begin is 7:30 (LS) or he will not be done (LF) when the painter plans to begin. These two tasks also have 30 minutes of slack (where the taper can take longer or the painter can come earlier). As part of controlling time and expenses, it is important for a project manager to know what asks are critical and where there is available slack when needed.

Unit Learning Outcome(s) Reflected in assignment:

  • Determine earliest start and finish times for project activities (CLO 3, 4 and 5)
  • Prepare a project schedule with the critical path identified   (CLO 4 and 5)


For the project plan you are developing,

  1. develop a diagram showing the earliest and start and finish times for the tasks.
    • Within that diagram, indicate (bold or colors) the critical path that needs to be watched the most closely to be sure your project is completed on time.
  2. Place the diagram in a Word document.
  3. Include a short narrative explaining the diagram’s contents in the word document.