Projects. A Critical Path Network Idea You Never Thought Of

The Critical Path Network.

Yes, the old CPN again. My mantra.

When I worked on a Chevron project many many moons ago, their Project Manager taught me something that I think is truly amazing. It’s so obvious that you’ll wonder why everybody doesn’t use it – but few companies have a decent enough CPN to enable it’s use.

A usable CPN.

If you don’t have one there’s no point reading any further, the content of this blog will be academic.

If you do have one, update it to ensure all  vendor activities are in and correct.

Now, one at a time. List all the vendor activities ranked by criticality. A criticality rank is given by the number of days float the activity has. Zero float means it’s on the Critical Path. Two days float means it will go critical very quickly. Negative float means your CPN is bollox – go and fix it so that there are no negative days.

Having done all that, start with the most critical vendor with the most expensive Purchase Order – that vendor is a threat to your project. You need to protect yourself.

Next step

Here’s what I was shown to do – an act of sheer brilliance.

Arrange to visit their top managers at their premises. If the the owner can be present that would be excellent. Not the Project Team and not the Buyer. This is not a team meets team or a buyer meets buyer. The top management team + PM. No doubt they will invite the Buyer anyway.

The reason for your visit is simple. You want to show your appreciation.

To do this you will

  • give them a presentation on your project
  • show them how critical they are to your success*
  • allow them to present their company profile to you
  • allow them to show you round their facilities
  • and YOU then buy THEM lunch.
  • Have a photo opportunity, to which the local press can be invited, where you will give them a memento of your visit (something inexpensive with the Project Logo on it)
  • After lunch – ask them for assistance to get them off your Critical Path. What idea’s do they have? What can be done? Explore the possibilities. But more money is never an option.

* a cynic may think this is a good opportunity for the vendor to hump you. Let’s not go there, but keep it in the back of your mind.

Back at home office

  • Assess the suggestions
  • Insert them into the CPN one-at-a-time (biggest schedule opportunity first)
  • Run the network after each insertion. See what happens.
  • Take the benefit
  • Let the vendor know that their suggestions were helpful – and if they have any more? Call this number.

Maybe It’s Not All Good News?

A potential spin-off from this approach is that perhaps not all is well with your order. And you didn’t know that. Let’s say – you ordered the wrong item. If nothing positive comes from the visit then at least you know something you didn’t know before. And you’ll be sitting at a dining table with the people who are going to fix the problem for you.

Why is a vendor so important?

On site. You can always whistle up some manpower. You can wangle a permit. You can conjure up a crane. You can dig holes, move earth, shift sand. But if you don’t have a valve? You do not have a valve. End of.

If you don’t have the valve you’re goosed








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