Klaas Hermans Lifetime in digital and innovation, ensuring value delivery. I enjoy energizing and motivating teams that create and exceed product expectations.

Guide to fast-tracking and crashing in project management

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Guide To Fast-Tracking And Crashing In Project Management

If you were an adolescent in the 1990s, you couldn’t have missed the Spice Girls. This British girl group, consisting of Scary Spice, Posh Spice, Baby Spice, Sporty Spice, and Ginger Spice, redefined girl power.

Surely, you remember their hit song “Wannabe.” Maybe you also remember their song “2 Become 1.” In a nutshell, they emphasize how great it is when two become one.

Now, I have always had a fascination for Japanese culture, especially Samurai. Growing up, I would have never guessed that Samurai culture inspires and influences entrepreneurs and leaders all over the world.

Books such as The Five Rings, The Art of war, or my favorite, The Hagakure, capture many value management strategies and lessons that can be used today.

One of my favorite quotes in The Hagakure is, “It is bad when one thing becomes two.”

These references always pop up in my mind when looking at how to speed up the delivery of a feature.

So, which one is it? Is it a good thing that two become one, or isn’t it?

It’s time to get the show on the road and explore how fast-tracking and crashing speed up delivery, the risks they carry, and how and when to execute them.

Let’s find out who had it right, the Spice Girls or Yamamoto Tsunetomo.

Table of contents

What does fast-tracking mean in project management?

If you want to speed up delivery, there are multiple roads that lead to Rome.

For instance, you can add resources, eliminate functionality, or accept a lower-quality product.

Another option is fast-tracking. Fast-tracking involves overlapping activities that you would preferably complete in sequence.

Think about overlapping the design of a feature with its delivery, allowing developers to start coding before the design is fully completed.

As you can imagine, fast-tracking carries an increased risk. It’s like building a car engine while the body is still being designed. It increases complexity, with interdependent tasks being carried out at the same time.

Pros and cons of fast-tracking

The pros and cons of fast-tracking are as follows:

Pros And Cons To Fast-tracking


  • Shorter project duration — Fast-tracking can significantly reduce your overall project duration by overlapping activities that would normally be completed in sequence
  • Improved efficiency — By completing multiple tasks simultaneously, you can improve project efficiency and save time
  • Increased flexibility — Fast-tracking allows you to respond quickly to changes in the project schedule or unexpected events


  • Increased risk — Fast-tracking can result in increased risk, as your interdependent activities may be impacted if any one task experiences delays
  • Decreased quality — It may result in decreased quality because overlapping activities can lead to conflicting results, or when you overlook quality control measures
  • Increased complexity —Fast-tracking can increase complexity, as you must coordinate multiple tasks simultaneously
  • Increased costs — If you need additional resources, you’re likely to have to spend more

As you can see, fast-tracking can have many benefits, but it also carries risks and should be used carefully. You should weigh the risks and benefits before making a decision.

What is project crashing? How is it different from fast-tracking?

In the lane next to fast-tracking, there is crashing. Crashing is a technique used to reduce the duration of the critical path by adding more resources.

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The critical path is the sequence of your tasks that determine the minimum amount of time needed to complete delivery. By adding more resources or increasing working hours, the tasks can be achieved quicker, shortening the overall duration of delivery.

Take a car, for example. To keep it running smoothly and avoid serious problems down the line, it requires regular maintenance. No one likes standing still next to the highway with a broken down car on the way to their winter holiday destination.

You may need to change your tires, windshield wipers, oil, headlights, and what have you. While these can be done one by one individually, if you have four people doing individual tasks, your waiting time is significantly reduced. This will allow you to be back on the road in no time.

Now, crashing can be expensive because it requires additional resources and may also result in increased costs. Another downside is that adding more resources to a project can result in decreased morale and productivity due to increased supervision and coordination requirements. It can lead to burnout among those involved.

Adding resources isn’t a guarantee of quicker delivery. Therefore, like fast-tracking, use crashing with caution and only when it is necessary to meet a project deadline.

Where, with fast-tracking, you aim to speed up delivery to meet a deadline by overlapping activities, in crashing, you try to achieve the same by adding resource capacity. By adding resources, crashing is more likely to increase costs:

Fast-tracking Vs Crashing Timeline

Both are, as Maverick in Top Gun would say, about the need, the need for speed.

When to fast-track/crash a project (and when not to)

Fast-tracking and crashing have many benefits. On the flip side, they also carry risks. Lucky enough, you are not Indiana Jones, so you don’t have to choose.

Still, when you do, do it wisely. Consider alternative methods for reducing duration before implementing these techniques.

As with almost anything in life, it is good practice to make a list. In this case, let’s create a “when to” and “when not to” list, before diving in head-first.

You should consider fast-tracking or crashing when:

  • A delivery deadline is approaching and there is a risk of missing it
  • There is a high level of uncertainty and a need for quick results
  • There is a need to reduce the delivery duration without changing the scope
  • There is a need to maintain or improve quality while reducing the duration

You should not consider fast-tracking or crashing when:

  • There is a high level of risk associated with the delivery
  • The budget is already tight and additional resources cannot be added
  • There is not a clear understanding of the interdependencies between tasks
  • You are experiencing delivery delays for other reasons that have yet to be identified
  • Delivery is mission-critical and there is no margin for error

How to fast-track a project

OK, so you want to go and fast-track a project that is about to run out of gas?

The following step-by-step process that help you to reach your destination quickly and smoothly:

  1. Identify the critical path
  2. Identify activities for fast-tracking
  3. Evaluate the risks and benefits of fast-tracking
  4. Develop a fast-tracking plan
  5. Implement the fast-tracking plan
  6. Monitor and control the fast-tracked activities

Steps To Fast-track a Project

1. Identify the critical path

Start with identifying the critical path. The critical path is the sequence of activities that need to be completed on time to complete the entire initiative. Identify those activities and determine scheduling dependencies and flexibility.

Any delays in the critical path result in delays in the rest of the initiative.

Example: For a construction project, the critical path may include activities such as site preparation, foundation work, and rough framing.

2. Identify activities for fast-tracking

Identify those activities that can potentially be done simultaneously to speed up delivery without negatively impacting it.

Example: For the construction project, potential activities for fast-tracking may include site preparation and foundation work, which can be done simultaneously.

3. Evaluate the risks and benefits of fast-tracking

Let me one more time stress the importance to note down all viable alternatives to fast-tracking. Create a pros and cons list and do the same for the most suitable alternatives.

Example: The construction project manager considers the potential impact on the project schedule, cost, quality, and risk when deciding whether to fast-track the site preparation and foundation work activities.

4. Develop a fast-tracking plan

Like John “Hannibal” Smith of The A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together. Develop a fast-tracking plan, visualize the before and after, and communicate the fast-tracking plan with your stakeholders and delivery teams.

Example: The construction project manager develops a detailed plan for how to fast-track the site preparation and foundation work activities, including scheduling, staffing, and resource requirements.

5. Implement the fast-tracking plan

It’s all about execution. Now I get that it is easier said than done. Yet, once you have developed, aligned, and got approval for your fast-tracking plan, it is time to execute it.

Example: The construction project manager schedules the overlapping activities, allocates the necessary resources, and manages the increased complexity of the project. The project team executes the fast-tracking plan.

6. Monitor and control the fast-tracked activities

Now, a plan is a plan and unforeseen events will occur. Like any delivery plan, you need to monitor and manage fast-tracked activities. This will lead to a successful delivery and that well-deserved launch party.

Example: The construction project manager monitors the progress of the fast-tracked activities, and takes corrective action if necessary to ensure that the project stays on track and meets its objectives.

Key takeaways

Well, in my view, neither the Spice Girls nor Yamamoto Tsunetomo had it right or wrong.

If your initiative is about to miss a deadline, it can be good that two become one by fast-tracking delivery. You might also consider not letting two become one and crash delivery instead. Both techniques can aid you in delivering timely.

Before using either or both, it is crucial to validate if they are the right way to go, or whether or not alternatives are more suitable. When you make this important decision, follow a structured process, monitor impact, and take corrective action when needed.

Featured image source: IconScout

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Klaas Hermans Lifetime in digital and innovation, ensuring value delivery. I enjoy energizing and motivating teams that create and exceed product expectations.

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