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Project Crashing: What Options Do You Have?

written by: dianahardin • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 6/24/2015

What exactly is project schedule crashing? How do I use it and when is crashing NOT a good idea? If you’re a project manager, these questions will eventually hunt you down and find you.

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    What does it mean to "crash" a project?

    When we say that an activity will take a certain number of days or weeks, what we really mean is this activity normally takes this many Project Management Triangle days or weeks.We could make it take less time, but to do so would cost more money.Spending more money to get something done more quickly is called “crashing."

    There are various methods of project schedule crashing, and the decision to crash should only take place after you’ve carefully analyzed all of the possible alternatives.The key is to attain maximum decrease in schedule time with minimum cost.

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    Which Method is Best?

    Increasing Your Resources

    There are a number of standard and typical approaches to attempting to crash a project schedule. One of the most commonly utilized methods involves increasing the assignment of resources on schedule activities. This essentially means decreasing the time it takes to perform individual activities by increasing the number of people working on those activities.


    This makes sense, at first glance. For example, if it takes Bob 4 hours to complete an activity, it would logically take Bob and Sue 2 hours to complete the same activity.


    Adding resources isn’t always the best solution, though. Sometimes it ends up taking more time in the long run. Consider the following:

    • New resources aren't going to be familiar with the tasks at hand, so they will probably be less productive than current team members.
    • Who will guide the new members up the learning curve? Usually it will be the most productive members of the team, who could themselves be working to get the task finished more quickly.
    • Being available does not equal being qualified. Not even the best neurosurgeon in the world will help if you need an HTML programmer. Sometimes extra hands are only tangentially qualified for the work, and even if the new resources have the right skills, they may not be on the same caliber as the current team members (too many cooks spoil the soup!).

    With that in mind, maybe you've decided that adding resources isn’t the best method for crashing your project. Don't worry, you have other options.

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    Fast Tracking

    Another solution may be fast-tracking, which involves over-lapping tasks which were initially scheduled sequentially. Or you might be able to optimize your schedule in other areas.

    • For example, maybe you can split long tasks into smaller chunks to squeeze more work into a shorter period of time
    • reduce lag times between tasks
    • or reduce the scope to eliminate less important tasks.

    Finally, sometimes the best method is some combination of resource addition and schedule activity alteration. For instance, adding additional, qualified people to the task to be completed earlier and re-assign members with less experience to tasks that do not have a pressing deadline. In addition to re-assigning members so they are more productive, you may be able to re-schedule projects so several items can be worked on at once instead of sequentially. Be creative - you may have to "crash" differently with every project!

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    When NOT to Crash

    The key to project crashing is attaining maximum reduction in schedule time with minimum cost. Quite simply, the time to stop crashing is when it no longer becomes cost effective. A simple guideline is:

    • Crash only activities that are critical.
    • Crash from the least expensive to most expensive.
    • Crash an activity only until:
      • It reaches its maximum time reduction.
      • It causes another path to also become critical.
      • It becomes more expensive to crash than not to crash.
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    Business and its environment are more complex today than ever before, so project managers must become more rational in their decision making by using the most effective tools and techniques. Before you decide to crash a project, make sure you've looked at all of the possible options and thoroughly evaluated cost analysis models. That way you can achieve the greatest results for your efforts.

    Tip: To avoid crashing your schedule in the first place, try implementing some standard project management forms to keep your project on track.


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