Unveiling the Power of Effective Critical Path Management

By TBH Associate Director, Emrah Uluverdi

This article was first published in the January 2024 issue of Middle East Consultant.

Harold Kerzner, a renowned project management expert, famously stated: “Critical path Management (CPM) is not about working faster, it’s about working smarter.” In construction, where time is money, it always pays to work smarter!

Delivering a project efficiently – on time and within budget – is challenging. It requires careful planning and management throughout the entire development process to control the complex inter-relationships between owners, end users, designers, authorities, suppliers and contractors.

Through a comprehensive understanding and application of CPM, teams can gain a decisive edge in efficiency, budget adherence, and overall project success. Furthermore, they can enhance their ability to monitor and control project risks, ensuring the achievement of all goals.

How can project managers monitor and act on critical delays?

Critical path management helps project teams identify potential risks and delays before they become real problems. By monitoring the critical path, managers can quickly identify and address any issues before they become too costly or difficult to manage. This helps to ensure that all projects are completed on time and within budget.

What is Critical Path Management

The core concept of CPM revolves around the critical path, which represents the sequence of activities that determine overall project duration. Critical path activities have no ‘float’, meaning any delay in their completion will inevitably delay the entire project timeline.

Implementing the CPM methodology can improve the efficiency and timeliness of project delivery. As a result, a team can prioritize tasks, allocate resources, anticipate any unforeseen circumstances, and keep track of progress to ensure that the project is completed on time.

As-Built Records and the Baseline Programme

Establishing a robust baseline programme is the first step. It acts as the project’s roadmap, detailing scheduled activities and strategic intentions. It serves as a shared reference guiding each department throughout the project, with critical paths outlined.

At a minimum, the baseline should capture solid logic, incorporate accurate resource requirements, and be comprehensible to stakeholders.

A specialist consultant can help finalise your baseline program, especially for complex projects. The expertise they bring to the project ensures precision, on-time delivery, and effective critical path management.

Complementing the programme are as-built records, which document activities’ actual progress. Including as-built records in progress updates helps stakeholders stay informed and engaged. To validate project progress against the initial plan, critical path management heavily relies on as-built records. Their role is to provide historical documentation and to validate progress in accordance with the original plan.

Identification of Critical Paths 

An area that needs improvement

It is common for planners to record the as-built dates in the programme and submit it as the ‘updated programme’. A progress monitoring and reporting journey goes beyond this. In addition to recording the as-built dates and progress, an updated programme should also reflect updated strategies, change instructions, and any other modifications.

A suggested procedure

Despite the fact that a baseline programme establishes intended timelines, periodic updates are necessary to determine actual progress.

When changes occur, it is important for them to be reflected. A critical path should be identified based on negative variances, under the supervision of the planning team. Despite having a baseline schedule, regular updates will still be necessary to determine actual progress. When changes occur, they should be promptly integrated to maintain accuracy.

Follow this collaborative process:

The planning team actively collects as-built data and new scope information in real-time, integrating updates into the schedule at least biweekly.

They thoroughly analyse float and identify negative variances to pinpoint critical paths, also scrutinising near-critical paths as lead indicators.

For identified problem tasks, convene subject matter experts from relevant functions to diagnose root causes of delays.

Categorise these delay causes in a “Critical Path Analysis Report:

  • Engineering
  • Procurement
  • Construction
  • Testing & Commissioning

Each responsible department reviews findings, confirms missing data is captured, verifies baseline logic, and validates causes. The departments devise remedy plans to mitigate delays, providing suggestions for how to get back on schedule.

Contingency plans with clear trigger points are predefined for different delay degrees.

The planning team integrates agreed-upon changes into a schedule update, communicating the alterations and reasoning behind each.

This systematic approach harnesses cross-functional collaboration, expert input and proactive contingency planning to enable responsive action when critical paths shift. It balances real-time agility while retaining necessary oversight procedures.

Critical Path Management Meeting

In contrast to routine progress meetings, which often focus on construction-centric issues and technical discussions, the ‘Critical Path Management Meeting’ involves managing critical paths strategically.

It is important that all department heads participate in this meeting, ensuring a holistic representation of all project aspects. The planning team presents a comprehensive overview of the critical paths leading to the project’s completion in order to facilitate collaborative discussion that fosters collective insight and decision-making.

Below are some key deliverables.

  1. A) Internal Delays (Driven by Contractors): Action plans addressing internal delays should be meticulously documented. Efforts should be taken to realign the project timeline by identifying immediate recovery strategies.
  2. B) External Delays: Delays attributed to external factors should instead be addressed by issuing timely delay notices. Instead of focusing only on claims, this communication should underscore the shared commitment to complete the project on time.

It is important to accurately record and closely monitor all discussions and decisions during the meeting.

Frequency of the Critical Path Management Meetings

Depending on the size and complexity of the project, weekly reviews are ideal, ensuring that the pulse of the project is consistently monitored, and the focus is always on the critical path activities.

By implementing a weekly review cycle, issues are caught and addressed in a timely manner, minimising the chance of diverging critical paths. In this way, all stakeholders can act swiftly, focusing specifically on critical path management and mitigating delays.

Updated Programme Review by the Engineer/Employer

The Contractor’s Right to Modify the Updated Programmes

Engineering/Employers often resist modifications to the updated programs in some projects. It is not effective for project management to use this approach.

A dynamic construction project demands an updated programme that accurately reflects the latest status.

In most cases, the Contractor bears the ‘time risk’ and, consequently, owns the programme. As such, the Contractor retain the right to change it. By restricting program changes, a program may end up serving no purpose as a management tool – becoming instead an irrelevant document attached to reports.

Transparency and accountability, however, should always be considered equally important. Accordingly, changes made to the programme should always be meticulously documented in a change log, accompanied by comprehensive explanations for the alterations.

Review Process by the Engineer/Employer

Once the Contractor provides the updated programme, there needs to be an in-depth review process conducted.

Any critical delays attributable to the Contractor must be reported to the relevant departments for monitoring. Should the Contractor fail to provide an action plan for addressing the critical delays, a prompt notification must be issued, accompanied by a slow rate notice, ensuring scrutiny of the delays.

Addressing critical delays caused by the Engineer/Employer is equally crucial. Pending decisions must be expedited, and any required information should be promptly provided to the Contractor. This proactive approach ensures a swift resolution of the issues, aligning all parties toward the overarching goal of timely project completion.

Effective critical path management is essential to ensure the successful and timely completion of construction projects. Starting with a robust baseline programme and then implementing an effective critical path management approach, critical path management is essential not only for monitoring progress but also for promoting proactive engagement and enabling timely decision-making.

Putting it all together

By involving department heads, conducting regular critical path management meetings, and addressing delays promptly, a collaborative environment can be created to ensure everyone is on the same page. This journey requires more than just a reflection of as-built records; it demands a dynamic approach that adapts to ever-evolving particulars.

Ultimately, project management in construction demand coordination of various tasks and the active involvement of stakeholders to achieve a common objective. Adopting a meticulous and adaptable approach to critical path management empowers teams to effectively navigate these complexities.


As an Associate Director at TBH, Emrah Uluverdi is responsible for providing specialist programme and project planning, time management, and claims and dispute resolution services to Middle Eastern clients.


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