A critical path is a project management concept in which a series of dependencies is linked together to form a complete project.

For example, a whole project is complete when E has been done, but E depends on C and D, of which C depends on B, which depends on A. (For simplicity, I'm ignoring the expected time for each dependency.) Something like this:

A --> B --> C --> E
            D -->

Now, as individual dependencies (for example A) get accomplished, the other dependencies increase in importance for project completion.

One can speak of the current dependencies/blockers as the 'constraints'. In the example above, once A is complete, B is the constraining dependency, but what can one say of D? It's clearly more pressing than it was (and is independent of A, B and C), but is not yet the most critical constraint.

How does one describe the change in importance of such later dependencies on the critical path?

  • Can one say that they are 'rising up the critical path'?
  • Can one say that they are 'becoming a constraint'?
  • How about D is becoming more important or rising in importance to the success of the project? Once it becomes the sole constraint then it becomes critical. Oct 23, 2015 at 9:41
  • Your simple example is linear, with no branching or joining, no alternate path. So the concept of "critical path" doesn't really apply. If I understand you correctly, D cannot be started until C is done. Thus D becomes critical only when C is done. In other words, D is no more important after B is done than it was after A was done, or than it was before A was begun. Oct 23, 2015 at 12:06
  • @BrianHitchcock - in my example, D is not dependent on C. When I first set out the example, when C & D are introduced, it is stated that of these, C is dependent on B. Also, later I explicitly state that D is "independent of A, B and C". I tried to make this clear in the graph - i.e. there is no precursor arrow to D.
    – amaidment
    Oct 23, 2015 at 17:34

2 Answers 2


In everyday language you could say they are coming to the fore.

come to the fore
Fig. to become prominent; to become important
The question of salary has now come to the fore.
Since his great successes as a prosecutor, he has really come to the fore in city politics.
The Free Dictionary

As an example in your scenario:

Now that A is complete and B is under way, C and D are coming to the fore. Therefore we must ensure our supply chain is in place.


The term I would use is "bottleneck," since, like the thinner neck of a bottle, it limits the rate at which progress can continue. Consider also the Dictionary.com defintion:

a place or stage in a process at which progress is impeded.

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