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Project management crash: definition and best practices

Aastha KocharLast Updated: November 1, 2022

Time is precious when managing a project. However, there is rarely enough time to manage the projects, so we schedule the tasks and projects to ensure on-time completion.

But, of course, projects come in different shapes and sizes. And with every project, unique challenges can cause things to go awry. You can overcome these challenges and curveballs by using risk analysis, critical thinking, and methods such as crashing in project management.

In this article, you’ll learn what project management crash, when to crash a project, and the stages and best practices for crashing a project.

What is crashing in project management?

Project management crash is a tactic used by project managers to address unrealistically scheduled project deadlines. It is a method employed to speed up a project’s timeline by adding additional resources without changing the project’s objective. 

In simple words, crash time in project management is compressing tasks and activities by hiring additional resources to complete the project to meet the deadline as fast as possible.

Projecting crashing is planned after carefully analyzing the initially planned resources and determining where the additional resources will be helpful. However, crashing a project mostly requires an increase in the cost of the overall project. Therefore, calculating overall cost and return on investment is important.

Furthermore, every project and its objectives are different; hence there are no set-in rules and steps to crashing a project. 

Project management crash: an example

Let’s consider a simple project management crash like launching a magazine to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the company. And handing out the magazines at the celebratory party is the project’s scope. 

However, delays in approving the lead feature have caused the project to fall behind. And to ensure the magazine is handed by the anniversary, you choose to pay a rush fee for the printer. The rush fee allowed you to meet the immovable deadline without changing the scope and objective, but it also increased your project cost.

How do you make a decision to crash a project?

As mentioned before, a project management crash is decided to meet the unrealistic and immovable deadline of the project. For instance, a project is executed before a discrepancy in the objective and deadline is spotted; in this case, the project crashing will likely involve a scheduling overhaul based on supplier and worker availability.

Furthermore, deciding to crash a project is typically the final resort to address unforeseen changes. And it is planned after carefully analyzing the resources and making a data-driven decision in the best way possible.

Project crashing management stages

Once you decide to crash the project, there are some steps to follow that may lead to your desired results. Here’s how to crash a project in project management.

1. Use the critical path

You should always use the critical path method when it comes to crash point project management. It is when you are critically re-checking or retracing the steps to determine which task can be shortened by investing additional resources. However, there might be some steps that can not be expedited.

In addition, if there aren’t enough resources, and you find yourself working with a limited budget, you should determine what is more impactful to the overall project timeline.

2. Evaluate the pros and cons of each step

Evaluating the benefits and drawbacks is important when crashing activities in project management. This makes it easier to estimate finances that come with extra manpower. Evaluate the pros and cons of each step, especially if additional resources are added; also calculate whether the time you gain is worth the cost.

3. Find the cost-effective option

While evaluating the benefits and drawbacks and calculating the cost associated with adding more resources, determine which option is more cost-effective. This will allow you to enjoy the highest efficiency level in your project.

Furthermore, there is an alternative way to project crashing which is fast-tracking. Although fast-tracking doesn’t always work with projects that include steps, it will allow you to overlap the completion of certain tasks you’d originally planned to finish separately.

4. Update project timeline

After you finish planning the project management crash, update the timeline with the new completion date, along with the new project cost and the changes to your sponsor. Whether the sponsor is your client or employer, they’re ultimately responsible for approving the budget and revised timeline before executing the project.

5. Execute the project

After getting the approval for crashing the project and the new budget plan, the last step is to execute the project. If you have planned your critical path in detail, allocate the additional resources according to plan and sail on smoothly towards the deadline.

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Best practices when crashing your project

Crashing a project is usually the final resort to address unforeseen changes. And if the project crashing does not involve any specific budget, then optimizing the timing for the activity in question is the priority (which requires consideration of a few things).

Critical path

A critical path is a chain of tasks that directly affect the project’s deadline. Compressing the time of tasks in the critical path will bring down the total project completion time. Similarly, if any task of the critical path is delayed, then the whole project is delayed. And an activity that is not on the critical path will not impact the total time needed to complete the project.

Track resources cost

There are project management tools that help track resources. For example, if you add the hourly rates to the project, you can track your team’s logging hours and calculate your actual costs. This can also help you compare the estimated cost for the project and the total work done so you know immediately if you’re on target.

Schedule and allocate resources & tasks

Schedule and allocate your resources and tasks to the team according to your estimated cost and critical path. And try to find more people to work on tasks that do not require a hard-to-find skill set; this will make crashing easy. 

Balance the team’s workload for smooth project crashing

When allocating and assigning resources and tasks, it is important to ensure that tasks are assigned equally. To do so, there are project management tools that help with the task assigning and ensure that the project crashing management plan isn’t overloading some of your team while others are under-allocated.

Training needs

Specific tasks requiring a specific skill set might be hard to crash. And though outsourcing or training new personnel may be time-consuming and make the process more expensive, it can affect the project. Therefore, when deciding to crash a project, consider these factors and once you have the plan and budget outlined, get it approved by the project sponsors.

Final thoughts

Crashing a project allows you to compress tasks and activities by hiring additional resources to complete the project to meet the deadline as fast as possible. But deciding to crash a project is typically the final resort, and it is planned after carefully analyzing the resources and making a data-driven decision. So, refer to the steps mentioned above and the best practices to crash your discrepant project.

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