Fast-tracking and crashing are techniques without which a project manager can’t survive. I know many of Project managers out there reading this blog will agree with me.

These are schedule compression techniques, and we are not supposed to used commonly. But, these are very common in real life.  There are many driving forces which need compressing the schedule. Many times business reasons encourage to use them. Or, sometimes projects managers have pressures from business stakeholders.

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So for both practical usages as well as for clearing PMP® aspirant’s doubts around these techniques, I am penning down this blog. Let’s look into the details of these techniques.

Fast tracking – As per PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition

A schedule compression technique in which activities or phases normally done in sequence are performed in parallel for at least a portion of their duration.

When there is a need to compress the schedule first, we look for fast-tracking. We analyze dependencies on the schedule to see if they are mandatory or discretionary. In the case of discretionary, we see how we can play around dependencies. Let’s take an example – Activity 1 and Activity 2 have finish-to-start relationships, and the total duration is ten days. Suppose there is a need to finish these activities in eight days. Here we look for the possibilities to start activity 2 after two days of activity 1. In this way, on day 3, both activities are getting executed in parallel. And, total duration reduced from 10 days to 8 days.


Here, the critical point is that we cannot start activities in parallel blindly. If there is a schedule dependency, there is a reason behind it. Like, there could be some information flow from predecessor activity to successor activity. We need to see to what extent we can execute activities parallel. Like, on what day, there would be comparatively less risk to start activities parallel? And are we ready to accept those risks? What could be the risk response strategies in case of risk occurs by running activities parallel?

We can do Fast tracking to some limits after which if continued –

It may only add risk and rework and not schedule compression. Like, you have to wait for concrete to settle before the start of painting your house.

And yes, in case of mandatory dependencies, there is no scope to use fast-tracking. Also, we apply this technique on the activities of critical path; we may end up owning risk without any tangible output of it

Crashing – As per PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition

A technique used to shorten the schedule duration for the least incremental cost by adding resources

We see possibilities of the crash the schedule in case if we see a high risk of running activities in parallel.  Since in this technique, we use additional resources to finish work early,-

We do a cost-benefit analysis to explore the least additional cost and maximum compression.

Also, additional resources doesn’t only mean additional number of heads but it can be any of below

    • Approving overtime
    • Paying extra
    • Adding more resources

This option is always explored after exploring fast-tracking. The reason is obvious, it incurs an additional cost.  Also, we apply it on activities of critical path activities. Else, we may end up owning risk without any tangible output of it.

Here the important point is that we can crash the schedule to some limits, after which if continued –
It may only consume money without schedule compression. Ultimately you can’t deliver a baby in one month if resources increased from 1 to 9. Increasing resources introduce further communication and collaboration efforts, which impacts the schedule for sure.

Comparison of these two techniques

SnoFast TrackingCrashing
1Activities or phases are performed in parallel to compress the scheduleMore resources are added to the activities or phases to compress the schedule
2Increases rework and riskIncreases cost and can result in increased risk/cost too
3Works only when activities/phases can be overlapped to shorten the project durationWorks only for activities where additional resources will shorten the activity’s duration
4Always tried firstAlways tried when fast tracking hasn’t given required compression in schedule
5Applied on critical path activities. If not it will only add to floatApplied on critical path activities. If not it will only add to float

Frequently asked questions

Q: What is fast tracking? Is it same as lead?

A: Fast tracking is schedule compression technique. Here, we execute activities in parallel to shorten the schedule duration.  Lead is a type of dependency which helps in doing this schedule compression.

Though when we put lead as part of schedule compression, it has risk associated (Rework). But we can’t avoid project challenges –
E.g., starting development when one part of the design is ready (earlier planned to start development at the end of full design)

Q: What is crashing? Is it same as fast tracking?

A: In crashing schedule compression technique additional resources are added to bring the desired timelines. No, it is not the same as fast-tracking. In fast-tracking, we play around discretionary dependencies to compress the schedule.

Q: What is the difference between fast tracking & crashing?

A: Refer above table for comparison of both

Q: Which technique is better?

A: Depends on needs. If you can manage enough with fast-tracking that’s the best. Because fast-tracking doesn’t involve an additional cost. However, crashing helps in bringing timelines in considerably in some scenarios. E.g., construction projects, more workers can build the wall earlier.

Q: Why we apply schedule compression on Critical path activities?

A: What comprises project length? It’s the critical path. If we apply compression on activities, not on the critical path, we are just increasing the float. Schedule compression is not as easy as it appears. Sometimes while doing compression you may end up getting more than one critical paths which will make project riskier. There is always a lot of analysis at the background to do schedule vs. cost trade-off to achieve an optimized schedule after compression

 

If you want to see a comparison between fast-tracking and crashing with some examples, watch this video right away:

This is all I want to say about fast tracking and crashing. I hope this helps in resolving some long pending confusions. If not, please feel free to put your follow up questions here on our Discussion Forum

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