“Fast-tracking” defined

When I first heard the term “fast-track,” I thought: why does that term exist? wouldn’t everyone want things “fast-tracked?”

Then I learned the definition and found out how helpful the term can be. In short:

Fast-tracking is when you proceed with subsequent tasks/phases before the dependent tasks have been completed. Notably, fast-tracking includes proceeding with work while waiting for approvals/reviews.

Here’s an example:

Four steps: spec out equipment, quote equipment, wait for approval, order equipment
Steps in a typical procurement process, not using fast tracking. Identify (spec out) the equipment, quote the equipment, wait for approval, then order the equipment.

Let’s say you needed to order some equipment for a project. Typically you would figure out what you need, get a quote, send it forward for approval, and then order the equipment.

The good news about this approach is you don’t spend money before the approval is secured. The bad news is that approvals can take a long time, and it may then take an even longer time to order the equipment and wait for it to arrive.

Steps: spec out equipment, quote equipment, order equipment, wait for approval: if yes, open the boxes; if no, return the equipment
To speed up the project, equipment is ordered BEFORE approval is received. If the approver says no, then the equipment will be returned (perhaps at the cost of shipping plus a restocking fee).

OR, with the magic of fast-tracking you go ahead and order the equipment while waiting for the approval.

If the approval comes back “yes,” you’re good and you’ve saved time by parallelizing the ordering with approvals.

On the other hand, if the approval comes back “no,” you’ve got to pay the shipping costs (and probably a restocking fee) to send the equipment back. The approving authority may also get angry. But maybe you’ve got the budget to cover returning the equipment, or it’s a worse risk to be late than it is to spend money.


  • Starting design of a product before the prototype has been reviewed (and therefore assuming there will not be fundamental changes)
  • Planning projects before governance reviews have approved the projects
  • Scheduling a project close-out review before the project review meeting has occurred

So use the term “fast-tracking” and introduce others to it. I’ve found fast-tracking is a useful concept for talking about risk, schedule, and often budget.