Project Management Learning Series: Fast Tracking vs Crashing

Project Management Learning Series: Fast Tracking vs Crashing

Avantika Monnappa

Last updated July 25, 2017


As working professionals, we grapple with multiple projects, big and small, on a daily basis, many of which are often left unfinished because we hadn’t scheduled for contingencies and multiple projects. Worse, a lack of project scheduling techniques can affect our personal lives as well, with unmet commitments and pending tasks straining relationships and affecting productivity.
Project Management offers two important techniques for scheduling time so projects are executed without delays.  Knowledge of these techniques and their application to compressing schedules can be very useful, whether in the professional or personal spheres.

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What Is Schedule Compression?

Schedule compression is the name given to the techniques that are used when a person wants to shorten the duration of the project without changing the scope of the project. It can be used when a project falls behind schedule and needs to catch up, or if one wants to finish the project sooner than what was originally scheduled.

There are basically two techniques that can be used to shorten the project duration while maintaining the project scope. These techniques are fast tracking and crashing. 

Crashing is the process of adding resources to one’s project so as to be able to finish it faster. It involves a financial cost in most cases.

Fast Tracking, on the other hand, is the process of performing tasks in parallel so as to be able to finish the project sooner. However, it is important to note that overlapping tasks in this way leads to an increase in the risk of rework.

We shall now delve deeper into these two techniques so as to fully understand the difference between them, to know when they are used and to learn more about their advantages and disadvantages.

Fast Tracking

Fast tracking is a technique where activities are performed in parallel. These are activities that would have been performed sequentially using the original schedule. In fast tracking, the activities are worked on simultaneously instead of waiting for each piece to be completed separately.

It is usually important to start with this technique first. The main reason for this is that fast tracking does not involve any costs. It is simply a rearrangement of the activities in the original schedule.

Although fast tracking may not result in an increase in the cost, it leads to an increase in the risk, because activities that were originally intended to be performed sequentially are now performed in parallel. It may lead to a rework or rearrangement of the project. This reworking of the project can cause loss of even more time.

It should be noted, however, that fast-tracking can only be applied if the activities in question can actually be overlapped. In conclusion, the person managing the project, in order to know whether it is going to be worthwhile, must weigh the pros and cons of fast tracking against each other. A person must decide whether he or she is willing to make the trade-off between having this increased risk for a cost, and being able to implement a shorter project schedule.


Crashing is the technique to use when fast tracking has not saved enough time on the schedule. It is a technique in which resources are added to the project for the least cost possible. Cost and schedule tradeoffs are analyzed to determine how to obtain the greatest amount of compression for the least incremental cost.

Crashing is expensive because we are adding more resources to the project. Undoubtedly, if you add more resources to an activity or project, it is going to cost you more. It only works for critical path activities where it is possible to shorten schedules.

Crashing analyzes and categorizes activities based on the lowest crash cost per unit time, allowing the team behind the project to identify those activities that will be able to deliver the most value at the least incremental cost. The results of a crashing analysis are usually in a crash graph, and activities with the flattest slope are the ones that will be considered first, for the simple reason that they lead to an equal amount of time savings, but have a smaller increase in cost.

When the crashing approach is used, any additional costs associated with rushing the project are reviewed against the possible benefits of completing the project within a shorter span of time. In addition to that, other items that are considered when one is using the crashing approach include adding more resources to the project, allowing additional overtime, paying extra to receive delivery of critical components more quickly, among others.

Crashing only works if the additional resources are going to allow you to complete the project sooner. If the fast tracking did not accelerate the schedule enough, the team behind the project is going to consider adding resources to the critical activities of the project.

The manager of the project should take into consideration those resources that have the lowest associated costs and start with the lowest incremental cost resource pool first.

But Why Fast Track or Crash?

The reality of project management is that, sometimes, there is a need to compress the project schedule and deliver the project’s product, service, or result sooner than what was originally planned. Schedules are constantly subject to change. In most cases, schedules usually get longer as opposed to getting shorter. This could be due to a number of reasons. This can ruin your schedule in that you will not be able to complete it in  the time available. This is where fast tracking and crashing enter the equation. 

There is no reason to fast track or crash any activities that are not on the critical path. This is because you will not be able to gain any time whatsoever on your overall schedule if you cannot shorten your critical path. 

In summary, the differences between fast tracking and crashing are:
1. Fast tracking involves the performance of activities in parallel, whereas crashing involves the addition of resources to a project.
2. In fast tracking, there is increased risk, whereas in crashing, there is increased cost.

Now that you know more about the schedule compression techniques of fast tracking and crashing, the differences between the two, their benefits and drawbacks, and the situations in which we can apply the two, we’re sure you’ll begin to see results in no time at all: let us know how these techniques have upped your productivity in the comments below! 

And if you're looking to learn more about Project Management, why not enroll for our project management certification training course

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About the Author

A project management and digital marketing knowledge manager, Avantika’s area of interest is project design and analysis for digital marketing, data science, and analytics companies. With a degree in journalism, she also covers the latest trends in the industry, and is a passionate writer.


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