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An ultimate guide to crashing in project management 8 min read
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Time is a precious resource both in life and project management – but especially in project management. Schedules must be carefully created for workers, contractors, and project managers to ensure on-time completion. But sometimes, that isn’t enough.

There’s no shortage of curveballs that come along with a new project, which is why it is important  to adapt  and overcome these challenges by making use of certain methods. Some of these methods include  risk analysis, critical thinking,  and of course crashing in project management.

In this article, you’ll learn what crashing is and how to turn a roadblock into an opportunity for success using this method. We’ll also look at some templates and other tools you can use on to facilitate the highly coveted successful crash.

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What is crashing in project management?

In its simplest terms, crashing is a method in project management that helps you speed up the timeline of a project through the addition of resources. Project managers and stakeholders often use this method to either preserve a project’s estimated deadline or expedite it.

There are many project decisions that could be described as crashing. It could mean including more team members to work on a task so it will be completed faster.   Crashing may also involve paying an additional fee for faster results. Incentivized third-party contractors could provide additional manpower to help up a work schedule.

The goal of crashing in project management is to reduce the length of a project and its time-consuming tasks while also keeping costs minimal to mitigate budget concerns and retain satisfied stakeholders.

But there’s a significant trade-off that comes with crashing a project, and any sizable cost or reallocation of resources needs to be approved by the stakeholders or client. Even with such a trade-off, crashing in project management is still a common and effective method.

Why crash in project management?

Project crashing is used in critical situations that require a swift and substantial change to a project’s critical path (the roadmap of tasks that are dependent on each other and lead to project completion). If one item gets delayed, the rest of the path does too.

Crashing a project is one way to compress the rest of the project path to make up for delays in the beginning.

Imagine you have a team working to launch a new camera at the end of the month. As production picks up, your lens manufacturer experiences a delay in delivery that could set your project back by two weeks. The priority now is to discover a solution that still meets the expected launch date.

You might crash the project by changing manufacturers for the time being. There is often a higher cost associated with a last-minute pivot, but it will keep the project on track.

It’s up to the stakeholders, and project managers  to assess a situation and decide if a crash will be worth it.   .

To crash or not to crash: how do you make a decision to crash a project?

Most projects are planned with specific milestones and timelines. Closing out a project earlier than expected or crunching part of the timeline to a smaller period of time is not necessarily ideal. In most cases, crashing is an option best used to address emergency situations with minimal impact to project constraints.

A common time to decide on crashing in project management is when the planned completion date isn’t realistic given the current plan. A project can commence before a discrepancy in scope and deadline is spotted. In this case, crashing will likely involve a scheduling overhaul based on supplier and worker availability.

In short, crashing in project management is typically the final option to address unforeseen changes. It should only be tried after calculating the costs and making a data-driven decision that this is the best way of finishing the project.

What are some tips for crashing in project management?

There are no predetermined guidelines for project crashing, as the practice is tailored to each unique situation. Crashing one project may mean additional money being spent. Another project may require that resources are routed away from other tasks. But overall, balancing each trade-off is how you get the most out of a crashing a project. Here are some tips and tools you can use to maximize your chances of a successful crash.

  • Crash early rather than later

The earlier you decide to crash a project, the easier it is to manage in most cases. It may seem like a good idea to wait until you’re closer to the end of a project when you  have more details to begin a crash. But crashing can involve major changes, such as adding and training new team members or finding replacement suppliers. Having more time to attend to those changes supports a better chance of success and minimizes the need to reduce the scope of the project.

  • Manage a project during and after a crash

The decision to crash comes with its own inherent risks, all of which require additional monitoring. To properly manage a project crash, follow these best project management  practices:

  • Breakdown tasks: Breakdown all the required tasks, so you can understand each step that needs to take place.
  • Prioritize critical tasks: Prioritize those tasks that directly impact project delivery. You’ll want to know which tasks are critical to the desired outcome, so you can ensure those tasks are carried out in a timely manner.
  • Consider task length: Longer tasks often have the most room for improvement during a crash, and you may be able to find cost-effective solutions for some of them.
  • Ensure you have ample visibility: You want to have ample visibility into the project and all tasks. Since you’re fast-tracking the project and might even ignore traditional critical path methods, you may need to rely on new or additional resources.
  • Communicate regularly: Communicating regularly to ensure everyone is on the same page is critical to success.
  • Invest in technology: Investing in technology that helps you plan, manage, and execute on projects — or project crashes — can drive more positive outcomes.
  • Be realistic about the new project schedule

Crashing a project can do wonders, but it can’t do the impossible. Many times, the reason you need to crash a project in the first place is that it wasn’t defined, scaled, or scheduled with parameters that work with the resources at hand.

A project crash is a second chance to get it right, so consider each component carefully before committing to new schedules and deadlines.

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Facilitate effective crashing in project management with

Our intuitive, easy-to-use platform will equip you with all the tools you’ll need to have a successful project crash.

  • Everything in one place: Visualize and track task reassignments, schedule adjustments, and resource reallocation from one  single platform..
  • Communication: Effectively communicate with your team on our collaborative platform to make changes to the project’s critical path for a seamless transition to a new trajectory. Stakeholders, workers, and managers can all benefit from clear expectations and communication.
  • Automations and notifications: Use automations and notifications to streamline the work, reducing the time it takes to attend to certain tasks. Nowthat’s good for your project budget.
  • Notifications: Set notifications to be sent out from the Work OS dashboard for changes in workflow.

For additional project management support, explore our FAQs below.

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FAQs about crashing in project management

What are the 5 common reasons for crashing a project?

A project crash can be done in response to any change that impacts project completion. The most common reasons include:

  • Schedule delays
  • Supply disruptions
  • Accommodating future projects
  • Early completion incentives
  • Extra resources becoming available

Crashing to correct a change in deadlines or supply availability is done reactively to preserve delivery dates. Project managers also choose to crash as an optimization strategy. Additional workers available at little to no extra project cost can boost project completion ahead of schedule, often with an additional bonus for swift service.

When should you crash a project?

Crashing in project management is an act that will alter the originally scheduled timeline. Carefully analyze all available data, crashing options, and stakeholder requirements before making a decision. The best time to crash a project is as soon as a problem is identified and you decide the optimal solution is to crash after considering the potential benefits and drawbacks.

What are the disadvantages of crashing a project?

Project crashes typically come with increased costs that can’t be recouped if the project fails. Adding more resources to existing teams will come with potential challenges as responsibilities are shuffled and shared.

Start delivering on projects by crashing with

Your team works tirelessly to deliver projects on time and on budget. Support their work by easily tracking crash activities and maintaining the initial completion trajectory. The Work OS is designed to provide project teams with a collaborative and informative space to discuss, develop, and execute all aspects of project management.

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