Skip main navigation

What If I Don’t Like The Plan? Making Changes

Identify ways to shorten the duration of a project. Watch Professor Yael Grushka-Cockayne explain more.
So imagine that we’ve gone through all the steps. We’ve scoped our project and identified all the different activities that need to take place. We’ve identified the precedence relationships. And we’ve estimated the task durations to find the overall project expected completion time, and overall duration. But now, you realize that it’s way too long. You don’t have 12 weeks available to you. You need to shorten your project. You need to meet a deadline. What can you do? Well, luckily, the tools and the steps that we’ve taken so far will be critical and will help us in identifying ways to shorten our project duration. And we’re going to start by those tasks that we identified as part of the critical path.
The critical path is the only way to focus our attention and to shorten our project duration. We start by identifying those tasks on the critical path that are candidate to shortening, or to crashing. We look and we think about what do we need to spend in order to reduce their duration. Do we need to include additional resources? Do we need to spend more money? Once we’ve identified the least expensive task among the critical tasks that we are going to be able to shorten, we start experimenting with shortening the duration. But pay very careful attention. As you start shortening task duration, a new critical path, a new longest path in your project might emerge.
And therefore, you might need to take your attention elsewhere and start crashing other activities from other parallel paths. And so we need to conduct this crashing activity or reducing the project duration in a cycle. We identify our critical tasks. We find the least expensive task to reduce its duration. We reduce its duration, and we identify the new critical path that might have emerged. All the critical paths, even if there are multiple of them, will need to be shortened in order for our overall project duration to be reduced. In the process of doing this, what’s going to happen? Well, a few things. Overall, our critical path within our project is going to be shorter. It might change.
We might introduce a new critical path and a new set of critical activities. And more of them, a higher proportion of our project, will be on the critical path. And therefore, there’ll be less slack overall in our project. And we might actually be opening the door to a little bit more risk. But if we need to meet that external deadline, we might be willing to take upon ourselves that risk, reduce the slack in our project. Have more activities shortened and tightened in their duration in order to meet the overall deliverable date.
If it’s not possible to invest additional resources in order to reduce some of our critical tasks, another alternative is to go back to our scope. Reflect on what is necessary, and look at our work breakdown structure. Can we eliminate some unnecessary tasks? Can we reduce the functionality of our product, and perhaps, postpone some functionality to a later version or to a later phase? If we do that, and maybe we consider some areas where we can cut corners, or perhaps, outsource some of the work. We might be able to reduce the project completion time by looking at the scope, reducing the scope, and not necessarily accelerating our tasks.
Depending on our trade offs among our objectives, if we’re limited by this, if we’re constrained by our scope, constrained by our time, or by cost. We can choose how to investigate reducing the overall project duration.

As you watch the video think of a recent or current project that you’re working on. Again, this can be at work, home, or elsewhere. Think about the different tools and steps Professor Yael Grushka-Cockayne discusses in the video to shorten your project duration. Then, reflect on the following question:

If you need to shorten the project to meet a deadline, what might you do?

This article is from the free online

Fundamentals of Project Planning and Management

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education