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In project management, a critical path is the sequence of project network activities which add up to the longest overall duration, regardless if that longest duration has float or not. This determines the shortest time possible to complete the project.
Having the longest duration means it is the shortest time you can complete the project with. Makes sense ?
In simple terms, if the critical path is 50 days and this is the longest duration on the project, this will be the shortest time in which the project can be delivered. Even if every other task can be completed in under 50 days, the Critical path dictates that 50 days duration is also the shortest time in which the project can be completed.
The key is what shortest time refers to. It is not the shortest network path through the project but is the shortest time to complete the full project taking into account all parallel paths.
For example, if I am preparing Thanksgiving dinner and the appetizers take me 1 hour, the dessert 2 hours and the turkey four hours, the turkey cooking path is the critical path but is also representative of the shortest time (4 hours) to finish making dinner.
Hope that helps!
Longest duration refers to the path, shortest time refers to the schedule.
I just want to describe in a different way the same concept as described by Kiron and Rami. Actually, CP is the longest path of the network and it is the least possible time a project can be completed without impacting scope and budget.
Critical path is the LONGEST path, considering sequence of activities in the schedule diagram. Thus, this LONGEST path is also the SHORTEST time the project can take, because when the activities in this path are completed, we can consider the project finished.
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