Project Crashing in Project Management: The Definitive Guide
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Project Crashing in Project Management: The Definitive Guide

Post Author - The Toggl Team The Toggl Team Last Updated:

Meeting project deadlines is one of the best ways to prove to clients your agency is reliable. 

But challenges like delays or capacity issues can get in the way of meeting this goal. For project managers, resource allocation can be impacted by team burnout or not enough people to finish a project in time to meet a deadline. 

This is where project crashing comes in.

Project crashing involves deliberately shortening a project’s timeline by adding resources and adjusting task sequences to expedite project delivery.

In this guide, we will look at the ins and outs of project crashing, its definition, examples, risks and limitations, and best practices for implementation.

What is project crashing in project management?

Project crashing is the process of shortening a project’s timeline, either by adding additional resources or limiting the scope to reduce time spent on tasks.

Project managers often use this strategy to ensure deadlines are met. 

Adding more resources to a project can be costly. Project crashing can be used to keep costs low and stay within budget.

So, how does project crashing work? 

It involves changing the sequence of tasks within a project so it finishes on time.

It’s important to think about the trade-off when a project is crashed.

Although the deadline will be met, the project’s budget or quality may suffer. That’s why it’s vital to keep stakeholders and clients in the loop and get approval before crashing the project.

What is an example of a project crashing?

Let’s take a quick look at how project crashing works. 

A software development company is working on the final stages of a new app. They have 20 days left until their planned launch date. Before the launch, they still need to finalize the code and test a complex module, which will take around 18 days.

However, the company’s main competitor is gearing up to release a similar app soon, so the launch date needs to be accelerated. The management team decides to release their app a full week earlier to beat their competitor’s launch.

To hit this goal, the project manager assigns more team members to code and test the module, implementing overlapping shifts and automated testing tools to speed up the process.

With these changes, the development team can finish the module in 11 days and launch the app a week earlier than originally planned. But there’s an additional labor cost to speeding up the process, which could push the project over budget.  

At the end of the day, project crashing is a toss-up, and it’s up to project managers to decide if the pros outweigh the cons. 

Why do project managers use project crashing?

Project crashing is used in circumstances where a major change to the critical path is required to hit deadlines. There are several reasons why a project manager may choose to crash a project, like:

  • Timeline delays: This is a common cause for project crashing, especially when missing the deadline is penalized. Adding extra resources to meet a deadline can be more cost-effective than paying a penalty
  • Early completion bonus: Some companies offer bonuses if projects are completed ahead of schedule. In this case, project crashing makes sense if you have the financial resources to do it. 
  • New project assignments: Some project managers may crash an existing project when a new one is assigned to their team so they can move on as fast as possible.
  • Resource availability: If you have spare resources, you can use them to speed up your timeline. 

Project crashing can also mitigate future risks by assessing if early task timelines are achievable to meet deadlines.  

For example, a construction company has booked roofers to help with an installation for a set date, and they are unavailable for a full month after that date. However, they pour the foundation and complete other building work before the roof can be built. If they aren’t ready in time for the roofers, they won’t be able to continue their build until the roofers are available again. 

In this example, the project manager may choose to crash earlier tasks by hiring additional contractors so the foundation is ready for when the roofers come.

Next, let’s look at how to put project crashing into practice. 

How do you crash a project?

Project crashing can be complicated and messy if it’s not implemented correctly. 

Here is a six-step approach to get it right 👇 

How to project crash in project management.

1. Determine the project’s critical path

The Critical Path Method (CPM) is a project management technique used to find the longest sequence of dependent tasks within a project to determine its shortest possible duration. 

In simpler terms, CPM finds the most critical tasks to complete on time for the project to be successful.

To determine your project’s critical path:

  1. List all the tasks in the project and their dependencies
  2. Create a visual project plan or network diagram to visualize the flow of tasks and dependencies
  3. Estimate the duration of each task
  4. Calculate the earliest start and finish for each task, moving forward through the diagram
  5. Calculate the latest start and finish for each task, moving backward through the diagram
  6. Establish the slack for each task by deducting the earliest start from the latest start or the latest finish from the earliest finish
  7. Find the critical path which will be the sequence of tasks with no slack

Following these steps helps you identify the longest duration of the project and highlights any tasks that can’t be delayed without impacting the project’s on-time completion.

2. Identify the tasks you need to crash

Once the project’s critical path is determined, assess which tasks are necessary, which are secondary, and what can be shortened to speed up the project’s timeline.

Toggl Plan’s project management tool can come in handy here. Project managers get a detailed look at every task using the Project Timeline. From here, tasks can be organized with tags and segments to get a high-level overview of the project’s timeline:

Timeline View in Toggl Plan.

This information makes it easy to track project progress and identify tasks that can be crashed to speed up project completion. Once these tasks are identified, meet with the team members working on them and create a game plan on how to shorten the deliverable timeframe.

3. Understand the trade-off

Project crashing requires a shift in resource allocation by delegating tasks to freelancers or contractors, hiring new people, or stealing team members from projects.

As we mentioned earlier, these changes come at a cost. They can push a project over budget, or the quality of the finished project may suffer because it has to be delivered faster.

Before committing to project crashing, make sure you (along with the client and stakeholders) agree on the trade-off of what this will look like. 

4. Allocate resources

You can allocate resources to a project in three ways, but each comes with its own cost—financial and otherwise: Allocating internal resources from non-critical tasks to critical tasks. 

This strategy works well to shift focus onto critical tasks to help reach your deadline at a lower cost.

However, shifting resources away from non-critical tasks can cause them to be neglected, leading to other aspects of the project being affected later on. It can also cause burnout among your team members and affect morale, as they will feel a certain pressure from always working on critical tasks. 

Additionally, context shifting often leads to a drop in productivity of up to 40% as team members lose momentum and take time to refocus and get into the flow of a new task. This can cause increased error rates and higher stress levels among team members, contributing to burnout and other costs.

Project management software like Toggl Plan can provide clarity around available resources in your team. 

Thanks to the Availability Overview, project managers can see which resources are available to be assigned to the project you’re crashing.

Availability Overview in Toggl Plan.

There is also a Time Off view so you can quickly see which team members are out of the office and unavailable. The Scheduling Conflicts feature also flags if an assigned task clashes with another project or a team member’s time off, so they won’t accidentally be double-booked.

Scheduling Conflictions feature in Toggl Plan.

Delegating work to freelancers or contractors

Calling in freelancers or contractors to speed up is an ideal way to plug gaps in your resources. You can hire them for specific tasks or durations, and then scale them up or down according to the project’s needs.

On the other hand, integrating freelancers into your team and processes can be difficult. If they don’t align with your company’s core values or meet quality expectations, it can lead to subpar work or clashes with your in-house team. 

Hiring new staff

If needing additional resources is an ongoing problem, hiring new staff could be the answer.

New hires can be integrated into existing teams effectively and efficiently, especially when selected based on their cultural fit. Not only can their skills be developed through training and mentoring, but they can also bring fresh insight into a team. 

However, hiring new staff isn’t a fast process and it’s not the best solution if you need resources to crash projects quickly. New hires take time to ramp up, and immediately throwing them onto critical tasks can overwhelm them. 

There is also a high cost involved in hiring new staff, like advertising, interviewing, and training, which increases overall expenses.

5. Set your budget and adjust the timeline

Once you’ve chosen the best path for crashing a project, create an updated outline and timeline to share with everyone. This includes your team along with the client and stakeholders. You must inform them about the crash cost and how it will impact the project’s budget.

Before going any further, this revised budget and timeline need to be approved. To speed this up, include any details around which project tasks will be canceled, as well as any extra costs and time savings resulting from crashing.

Toggl Plan makes it easier to adjust your project timeline. Open the Project Timeline view and drag the tasks to change their length. Then, send it to the stakeholders and clients using a shareable link.

Project Timeline view in Toggl Plan.

6. Proceed with the new timeline

By now, the project crashing will have approval for the budget and timeline revisions. So, it’s time to add extra resources to the critical path tasks. 

Depending on which resources you sourced from step 4,  you may need to set aside time to hire and train new team members or get freelancers up to speed.

Now you understand how to crash a project, let’s look at the best practices to effectively execute a crash.

What are the best practices for project crashing?

Project crashing involves careful resource management and project planning. Here are a few best practices to successfully crash your next project: :

  • Task breakdown: Break down every detail and step of the tasks you will crash. This way, your team will know which milestones they’re working towards and how they will be achieved.
  • Prioritize: The first activity you crash should be the one that will have the biggest impact. Focus on the critical tasks and deliverables directly affecting project completion.
  • Look at the task length: Lengthy tasks with many moving parts are often likely to have room for improvement during a project crash. Assess them to see if you can find a cost-effective solution.
  • Visibility is key: Ensure you have visibility over every task in a project. Use Gantt charts, kanban boards, or other timeline views with a tool like  Toggl Plan.
  • Ensure regular communication: Transparency is key to keeping your team aligned on every project. Communicate regularly and flag any problems so you can be proactive and keep everyone on the same page.
  • Invest in project management technology: Good project management tools are crucial for planning and delivering tasks on time, especially for remote teams. They’re invaluable tools in project crashing to see the tasks involved and find areas for improvement. 

What are the limitations of project crashing?

Project crashing has limitations, and it can be challenging to implement. There are a finite number of tasks you can crash within a project to shorten its duration. And project managers are limited to tasks on the critical path that can be accelerated.

Completing a project faster doesn’t necessarily mean it was completed well. Your client may have quality concerns or lots of feedback, which means you have to rework substantial parts of the project.

Overstretching your resources can also lead to burnout, and they won’t have the bandwidth to begin a new project after the crashed one ends.

What is the cost of crashing a project?

The cost of crashing a project refers to the expenses required for additional resources to speed up the project’s timeline. Understanding how to calculate crashing in project management is vital for ensuring your project doesn’t go over budget.

The cost of crashing depends on different factors, such as:

  • Which resources are allocated? Did the project manager hire new staff (therefore needing a budget for hiring, training, and onboarding) or outsource to freelancers? Were any additional tools or software required?
  • How many resources are allocated? One extra freelancer will cost far less than five new full-time hires.
  • Were internal resources used? Existing staff brought in from other projects or tasks is often the most cost-effective project-crashing method.

When is crashing an appropriate method for shortening a project?

Project crashing isn’t always an ideal—or appropriate—method for shortening a project. 

To decide if a project can be crashed, analyze the critical path, your available resources, and the trade-off to establish if it’s a feasible solution.

Project crashing should only be considered when the cost of crashing does not cause the project to go over budget, or if hitting the deadline is more important than the budget.

What is the difference between project crashing and fast-tracking?

The difference between project crashing and fast-tracking is the former involves increased resources and costs, whereas the latter involves completing tasks in parallel and increasing project risks.

When choosing project crashing vs. fast-tracking, take into account key differences, like:

  • Crashing is a last resort: Both techniques are used to finish a project quickly, but crashing is generally seen as a last resort when fast-tracking hasn’t worked. 
  • Fast-tracking is riskier. It relies on the current team members multitasking, working at a faster pace, and pulling overtime to meet deadlines. It runs a high risk of burnout, whereas adding resources spreads the extra work over more people.
  • Crashing is more expensive: Adding extra resources will incur additional costs. Cost isn’t considered with fast-tracking in most cases, except where overtime is involved.
  • Fast-tracking only works if tasks can be completed simultaneously: If there aren’t any tasks that can be completed simultaneously, you’ll need to add extra resources.

How can Toggl help you with project crashing?

Project crashing is beneficial for expediting project delivery, but there are trade-offs to consider, like higher costs and quality compromises.

To execute project crashing effectively, careful resource planning, allocation, and management are vital, as is clear and open communication between stakeholders.

A project management and resource planning tool like Toggl Plan helps to streamline the process.  Thanks to the handy Project Timeline view and resource management features like the Availability Overview and Time Off views, project managers can get an accurate visual of how to crash a project successfully. 

Toggl Plan empowers teams to complete project crashing initiatives efficiently while ensuring transparency, fair workload allocation, and team alignment.

Sign up for Toggl Plan and see how it can streamline your project management workflows today.

The Toggl Team

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