CPM Mechanics: Must Reading for CM Educators/Trainers

A common criticism of today’s Planners and Schedulers is that they are superficially-trained, glorified “keyboard monkeys.” Hardly a glowing accolade, bordering on offensive. But the underlying sentiment is not without merit. With each passing decade we see the complex study of Project Planning and Scheduling being more and more “dummied down” to where today’s project management education (courses, seminars, and project management documents) provide only tip-of-the-iceberg treatment to what is really a very complex amalgamation of art and science.

Written Materials Are Watered Down

An admittedly superficial guage, consider the size of the subject text, CPM Mechanics. It is nearly 500 pages in length, has over 225 illustrations, and is appended by five White Papers, adding another 125 pages!

All of that, just to explain the underlying mechanics of the Critical Path Method. That does not include any discussion of how to design, develop, maintain, or use the CPM schedule as part of Project Time Management. Those are the subjects of three other texts! No, this one book, CPM Mechanics, covers JUST the dry mechanics of the Critical Path Method.

How do other texts treat the same limited subject? Answer: in, at most, two or three chapters. And in that same book, they dare to discuss schedule design, schedule development, schedule maintenance, schedule usage, forensic schedule analysis, claims, construction dispute resolution, risk management, regression analysis, Earned Value analysis, resource management, and even scheduling software nuances! All in one book!

Coursework is Watered Down

What about the coursework, either self-directed or classroom? The longest treatment would be found as a semester course — from among the Project Management courses in a four-year project management degree for some other major, such as Engineering, Project Management, Business Management, or even Construction schools. One course!

And in that one course? Well, they use the same texts we were speaking about, the ones that vainly try to cover everything there is to know about Project Time Management between one set of book covers.

Seminars Have Distinct Bias and Omit Much

Then there are the project management seminars and or the typical project management workshop, probably like the ones that some of you may teach.

  • Some are sponsored or authorized by specific scheduling software publishers, who want schedulers to learn how to use their software. The emphasis is one which menu options to click, and which keyboard strokes to make, in order to “make things happen.” And voila, at the end of a single week, a graduate is issued a Certificate of Completion,  which promptly goes on their resume.
  • Some are put on by construction claims consultants, and their thrust is to teach, in one or two days, how to construct a schedule that will hold up in court.
  • Still others are aimed at helping the student pass a project management certification exam of some sort.

Planning & Scheduling is Quite Different Than Project Time Management

No matter which of the above options is chosen, the student comes away with only a superficial understanding of how to design, develop, maintain, and ultimately use the Project Schedule. And we haven’t even begun to discuss the stark difference between conventional Planning & Scheduling and the more formidable Project Time Management. None of these courses or texts fully discuss Project Time Management!

If you think that Project Time Management means Schedule Development, Schedule Maintenance, and Schedule Control … you have left out an important player … your customer: the Project Manager!

The essence of Project Time Management is in what we do with the information in the schedule .. not just in our production of it. We encourage you to spend some time surfing the pages of this website, and we guarantee you that you will come away with an entirely different idea of what Project Time Management really is .. .than what Dominant Project Management has led you to believe.

World of Opportunity for Educators and Trainers

One can hardly turn a page in any Project Time Management articles without encountering a cry for better education. That is the battle cry of the new century. And the cry is an appropriate one: Someone needs to take the bull by the horns and put together a comprehensive training program to grow the next generation of Project Time Management practitioners.

Introducing ICS-Institute’s CAST Program

That is precisely what ICS-Institute is attempting to do, with its CAST Program. CAST stands for Construction Apprentice Scheduler Training. The CAST program, now in full-blown development, will include four courses to be taken over a four month period of self-directed, online study. Once the academic portion of the program has been successfully completed, the student will then serve a three-month paid internship with a practicing scheduling consultant to satisfy the experiential portion.

Together, C.A.S.T. will provide its graduates with all they will need for them to become immediately functional as an Apprentice Scheduler working under the watchful eye of a Journeyman Scheduler.

We stated that there will be four courses. Well, the first of those courses is entitled, CPM Mechanics, the same name as the subject book of this website! No coincidence. CPM Mechanics was written specifically for the CAST program.

Let’s Partner  

As a provider of project management training, the decision you need to make is whether you wish to continue offering superficial content for a quick dollar … or to provide comprehensive, quality education to a Construction Industry that is desperate for the same.

Attention Professors

If you teach a course on Project Management fundamentals (including Construction Scheduling), then do yourself a favor and check out CPM Mechanics. Contact us for a complimentary review copy. We will be happy to accommodate you. We are certain that you will be pleasantly surprised by the comprehensive and detailed treatment of our subject matter.

“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

I liked the details in CPM Mechanics; its detail in CPM computations and CPM topics are beyond what I have seen in so many other scheduling books. It was a good decision to get the book. You have put forth significant effort and knowledge that will be valuable for my scheduling classes. – Dr. Ahmed Aziz, Professor, University of Washington

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 project management 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!