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Mail: Another Perspective on Defining “Critical”

In response to Mike Glen’s article, “Ask the Experts: Define Critical,” published in the October 1, 2008 issue of the newsletter, the question is similar to ones that we have dealt with. I believe the answer is more along the line of the following.

Q: I have a very important task that my boss thinks is critical to the project outcome, and it is not showing up as red. How can I make it critical?

The fact that your boss believes the task is critical does not mean that it is a Critical task in the schedule, based on Total Slack (TS). A “Program-Critical” task is different from a “CPM-Critical” task. If your workflow logic is correct, then that program-critical task may have slack, and therefore not found on the critical path.

If the boss believes the task to be a program-critical task, find out what the risks are that may cause it to be Program-Critical. Assess a duration relative to that level of risk and add a “Risk Contingency” task, within that logic-flow, that may prove to be greater than or equal to the difference between the task TS and Critical Path (CP) TS. In other words, if the program-critical task has a TS of 5d and the CP TS is 0d then add a risk-contingency task of five or more days. This will cause that logic-path to become red.

Yours in service,

— Angelo Arcoleo, PMP
Master Scheduler, ITT Space Systems Division

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