It was one of those dreary, dark and drizzly mornings in deepest winter, and a troubled and embarrassed visitor at the door. He sat down, lit a pipe, and let the story unfold: “We had a problem with our hook-up...” Hook-up is when a pipeline connects the shore to the offshore installation. A barge lays down the pipeline, on the seabed metre by metre.
In the China Sea, a hurricane is called a typhoon. The typhoon arose and swept away the barge. To relocate the barge they needed to hire a helicopter. It took some time. The China Sea contains a myriad of small islands between the Philippines and Indonesia. Eventually they found the barge washed up on a beach.
When they could get down there, they discovered that the barge had been gutted and stripped by pirates: nothing left on board. Subsequently, the customer took out a claim for failure to meet a key deadline. The commissioning contractor retorted ‘Act of God’. “Not at all”, countered Big Oil, "The hook-up was not on the project's critical path".
Unfortunately, the contractor had kept no track of the critical path and had not agreed the schedule in enough detail with the client. They had to build up a case using job cards for each activity, with no clear agreed version of the dependencies between the activities. Overall losses to the contractor: 75% of the millions of dollars up for claim.
The critical path ensures that you are working in the same project, in the same direction, and for the same purpose.