The other day, I heard on CBC a business vernacular expert talking about overused buzzwords. You know, expressions like “At the end of the day”, “Thinking outside the box” and “Get on the same page”. Although I catch myself using terminology like this a lot, I generally agree that many of these phrases are getting tired. But in her list, the expert on CBC included “critical path”.

The term “critical path” differs a bit from the others, in my opinion, because it should be used more; assuming it’s used correctly.

You see, a critical path is a useful project management term that refers to the longest path through a network of interdependent project tasks. In other words, if a task is on the critical path, delaying it will delay the whole project. If a task in the project is not on the critical path, it’s usually got more flexibility with respect to its due date.

If someone uses the term correctly, it’s usually in the context of something like, “This task is on the critical path, so it can’t be delayed.”

Trouble is, I find a lot of people are using “critical path” interchangeably with “project schedule”. So they’re saying stuff like, “Have you drawn up the critical path for this job?” Or, “Did you print out the critical paths for the meeting?”

As a PMP, this irritates me a little. And now that someone is saying the term is an overused buzzword, it really bugs me.

Therefore, I implore the business community to start using “critical path” correctly, lest project managers start finding themselves accused unfairly of excessive buzzword usage.

(Have you hugged a project manager lately?)