CPM Mechanics: Must Reading for Project Planners and Schedulers

Under the tab labeled, “Who Benefits?” are all of the key stakeholders in the products and services of Project Time Management. While each different participant on the typical construction project is important in his or her own way, no single role is more directly associated with Construction Planning and Scheduling than actual Planners and Schedulers.

And while there is no universal agreement on just what distinguishes a Project Planner from a Project Scheduler, what they clearly have in common is that they are on the production side of the Project Time Management coin. [On the consumption side of that coin would be all of those named on those other buttons.]

Whether you are brand new to the field of Project Time Management or a seasoned veteran, this entire website, the book that it features, and the ICS-Compendium of which it is an important foundational part … should all be of great interest to you.

The Website Presents a Lot to Digest

We openly admit that this website does a lot more than simply describe a book. But we think you can understand why.

  • The book, CPM Mechanics, is the initial book in what will become a ten-volume set called the ICS-Compendium.
  • The ten volumes of the ICS-Compendium subdivide into three groups:
    • The Dominant Project Management Series entails four volumes that are designed to teach Project Time Management according to the conventional wisdom. That is, as the vast majority of you, now reading this page, perceive and practice Project Time Management.
    • Another four-volume set is entitled the Cognitive Project Management Series, and its pages are aimed at instructing Project Time Management according to Cognitive Project Management principles and practices.
    • The final two volumes contain general reference materials that are equally applicable to both Project Management models.
  • Cognitive Project Management is a Project Management model designed by ICS-Research specifically for the Construction Industry in North America. Because it was built from the bottom up, with the General Contractor (and its Field Superintendent, specifically) in mind … the design of Cognitive Project Management is demonstrably different than that of Dominant Project Management, the name give to the Conventional Wisdom of Project Management as practiced around the world.
  • Cognitive Project Management openly and unabashedly differs from Dominant Project Management on a number of different levels:

    • It adopts a radically different Project Management Ideology, a different approach to how projects should be managed and, therefore, how Project Time Management should be accomplished.
    • It includes a host of new and different Project Management Methodology options: some as enhancements to methodologies you are familiar with; and, others completely new to the world of Project Time Management.
    • It introduces new Project Management Technology choices as well, such as the intriguing Momentum Science, with its Performance Intensity and other cool features.

The Critical Path Method “Under the Hood”

It matters not whether you are a diehard Dominant Project Management fan, or open to learning more about Cognitive Project Management … what the two competing Project Management models have in common is the central importance of the Project Schedule. Both Project Management models believe that the Critical Path Method is the best platform upon which to build the Project Schedule. So that makes it equally important, to either Project Management model, that you understand how the Critical Path Method really works “under the hood.”

Now this may offend some readers, but estimates by a number of internationally renowned  Project Time Management authorities conjecture that upwards of 90% of all practicing Planners and Schedulers have no formal training in the Critical Path Method. If those estimates are correct, then there is a world of need for better training in this all-important area.


Training Options Abound

Now, to be fair, there are quite a few options available to someone wanting to learn more about Construction Project Time Management. But we must be completely candid (again) and confess our opinion that very few of the existing training programs provides a truly comprehensive education in advanced planning & scheduling.

  • At the colleges and universities, one might find a single twelve-week course as part of a four-year degree program in some other major. The same for a course at a junior college.
  • Scheduling Software publishers and their authorized trainers might offer a one-week program, but its contents will heavily emphasize software usage.
  • Claims consultants might offer a one- or two-day seminar on scheduling, but the thrust is on building a schedule for the courtroom.

  • Professional trainers offer short courses aimed at preparing the student to pass a certification exam toward a professional credential.

We do not think that any of these options goes far enough. Project Time Management is such a complex discipline that it simply cannot be done just in a 12 week course, let alone in a one-week or two-day seminar.


What Do We Mean by CPM “Mechanics?”

For example, think of Project Time Management as a two-sided coin. On one side are those who provide Project Time Management products and services. On the other side of the coin are those who consume those products and services.

Until now, virtually all Project Time Management training materials concentrate almost exclusively on the supply side of the Schedule Management coin: on Schedule Development, Schedule Maintenance, and Schedule Analysis. There is next to no discussion of how those who are actually building the project can and should use the products and services that we provide to them.

But even on the supply side, alone, there is a major deficiency. It is estimated that as much as 80% of all construction project planning is not performed by practicing Planners and Schedulers, but instead by Project Managers or Construction Site Managers (Field Superintendents). It is highly unlikely that many of these non-Planners/Schedulers has had any formal training in the Critical Path Method. And to be perfectly candid, it is equally questionable just how much formal training most Planners and Scheduler have received either!

It is our considered opinion that one cannot perform Project Planning or Project Scheduling to any degree of proficiency without first understanding how the Critical Path Method works at its most technical, “under the hood.”


Planners and Schedulers Should Read CPM Mechanics

For all of the above reasons, we respectfully encourage you to secure a copy of CPM Mechanics and then study it … slowly, page by page and really take it all in.

You have never seen a book on Critical Path Scheduling so well written, so well illustrated, so easily understandable.

  • It is written in a friendly conversational style.
  • It is nearly 500 pages in length, so there is ample time to slowly introduce and explain each minute point.
  • It adopts a crawl-walk-run approach to teaching.
  • It includes over 225 illustrations in vivid color.
  • It has a 400+ item Index, a complete four-level Table of Contents, and a eight-page Table of Figures.
  • It also includes five White Papers, that add another 125 pages of valuable content.
  • The ICS-White Paper on How to Calculate the Basic CPM Calculations is, in itself, priceless — complete with formulas and coordinated illustrations.

“A truly new and comprehensive explanation of  scheduling mechanics from the ground up. It effectively explains each step in  the voice of a senior scheduler standing right beside the student’s side. The  amount of detail exceeds any other textbook, yet is presented clearly without  overwhelming the reader.”  – Professor Gunnar Lucko, Catholic University of America


CPM Mechanics: Buy the Book or Sign Up for the Course …  Today!

There is quite a lot about the Critical Path Method that even seasoned veterans may not fully understand or appreciate. See how you react to the following statements:

  • Total Float belongs to the Activity Path, not to any given Activity.
  • It is possible for Latest Dates to be earlier than Earliest Dates.
  • Free Float belongs to the Activity Path, and not to the last activity in a path (as typically defined).
  • Neither the Least Total Float Path or Longest Path  definitions of a Critical Path holds up when a schedule has multiple Start Date Constraints and/or multiple Finish Date Constraints.
  • Absence of a Work Breakdown Structure does not invalidate a schedule.
  • All activities in a schedule are “related” to one another, even if they have no logic ties connecting them to one another.

We could go on, but the above bullets are sufficient to make our point. There is still much confusion and misunderstanding about how the Critical Path Method really works “under the hood.” CPM Mechanics is a nearly 500-page book, with over 225 illustrations, and another 125 pages of included ICS-White Papers … all intended to make CPM more understandable than ever before.

CPM Mechanics is required reading … if you really want to teach the Critical Path Method with confidence!