Understanding the Critical Path Method of Problem Solving: Page 2

Posted February 11, 2010

John Janowski

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Identify Dependencies and Assumptions

In many cases, the answer to one question can provide the answer to others. To maximize the efficiency of the process, it is important to identify which questions in a given problem can help to answer others. This is an instance where using the PERT chart can really prove to be useful. By going through the exercise of thinking through the problem on paper and organizing the questions in the order they must be answered, it helps to identify exactly what the dependencies in a problem might be.

For the most part we are taught not to make assumptions. However, in context of solving very complex problems we do need to rely upon our expertise and experience. For instance, we know servers require space, power, cooling and connectivity. We also know it is necessary to verify these requirements before assuming a critical value. Though making the assumption is necessary, it is also important to verify each value as a small mistaken assumption will be a costly mistake in the context of a large deployment.

Check Your Work

Once the situation and questions are identified in previous steps, the critical path problem solving process truly begins to pay dividends. As defined earlier, the critical questions can be divided into stand-alone questions and questions-with-dependencies. As many of the questions get answered through establishing assumptions, dependencies and constraints, the questions that are truly critical can be established and efforts can be focused.

Though it would be nice to assume the answers derived from the process of analysis are correct, this is certainly a time when assumptions should not be made. For instance, prior to a data center being turned over for the deployment of hardware, it is very important to test whether each supporting system has been properly installed, calibrated, and tested. As new problems are discovered during this commissioning process we would be forced to go back through our process to identify what, specifically, the problem was. In the end, a very detailed and thorough problem solving process leads us to an equally thorough conclusion.

The true benefit to this process is not only the answers it renders, but also the fact that it arrives at the conclusion in a way that achieves a high level of agreement and consensus. In many ways, it is very similar to a mathematical proof. Not only is an answer established, but the work used to arrive at that answer is also very clear. This is particularly useful when working with individuals who possesses very different and diverse areas of expertise.

The critical path problem solving process helps to remove varied perspective from the equation. By presenting the problem, the steps to solve it, and the solution in a clear and concise way, you can achieve consensus on the more complex issues you face.

John Jankowski is the president and founder of JanCom Technologies, Inc. For over 15 years, John has specialized in applying proven principals and processes resulting in the implementation of cost effective, manageable telecommunications systems and data center designs. With his extensive experience in telecommunications systems technologies as well as the design and construction processes, John has excelled in the programming, design, and implementation of mission critical telecommunications reliant facilities, cabling systems, data centers, and campus master plans.

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