If CPM is so bad, why have we been using it so long?

Lauri Koskela, Greg Howell, Ergo Pikas, Bhargav Dave

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Why has the Critical Path Method (CPM) been used so widely for so long given its inability to produce predictable outcomes? For shedding light on this paradox, the formative period of the CPM is analysed from two main angles. First, how was the CPM embedded into the construction management practice? Second, what was the methodological underpinning of the development of the CPM? These questions are researched through a literature review. In terms of embeddedness into practice, it turns out that the CPM morphed from being a way of production control, into a method for contract control. In consequence, the promotion of the CPM by owners has been crucial for pushing this method to be the mainstream approach to scheduling and production control. Regarding methodological underpinning, it turns out that the CPM was developed as a way of optimization, as part of the quantitative methods movement. This movement was largely based on the axiomatic approach to research. In good alignment with that approach, there was no attempt to empirically test quantitative models and their outcomes. In this context, the unrealistic assumptions and conceptualizations in CPM did not surface in forty years. These results are argued to be helpful in critical discussions on the role and merits of CPM and on the methodologies to be used in construction management research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication22nd Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction
Subtitle of host publicationUnderstanding and Improving Project Based Production, IGLC 2014
PublisherThe International Group for Lean Construction
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes
Event22nd Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction: Understanding and Improving Project Based Production - Oslo, Norway
Duration: 25 Jun 201427 Jun 2014
Conference number: 22


Conference22nd Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction
Abbreviated titleIGLC 2014


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