Join Chris Croft for an in-depth discussion in this video Communicating the plan and getting it signed off, part of Learning Gantt Charts.
- The first reason why Gantt charts are great is for communication. This begins right at the start of your project. If you were asked to do a very easy project, then you can just find out exactly what they want, say yes, go away, plan it, and do it. If your project is at all difficult, which pretty much every project is, then you'll be wanting to find out exactly what they want and then say, before I promise anything, I just need to do a bit of planning. Which I think you'll agree, is a reasonable thing to want to do.
You then go away and do the planning, including producing your Gantt chart, which enables you then to come back and say either good news, I can do your project, or less good news, I can do your project, but I'll need a bit longer than you would ideally give me, or more money than you want to spend, or reduce the specification a little to get it done in the time. So, the Gannt chart not only allows you to check that you can do what you're promising, but also, it gives you an arguing tool that you can use with your boss or your customer.
It's so simple and intuitive, that anyone can understand it. Everyone at the kickoff meeting can see what their part is and they can all commit to doing their part. After the meeting, you email everyone and you say, just to confirm that this is the plan that you're all signed up to, and then they can't let you down later in the project. That email is the best one you'll ever send. So, just to make sure that you're really clear on this part, there are two kickoff meetings. One for a discussion on what we're going to have and then after you've done your planning and got your Gantt chart, one for everyone to sign off the plan, which they've all agreed to.
The Gantt chart is so much better than a list of tasks with start and finish dates. Yes, you could boil the Gantt chart back down to a list of tasks, and you do now know the start and finish date of each task, but why would you do that? Why would you lose all the visualness? A list of tasks doesn't allow you to see the size of the tasks, which ones are critical, what happens if one task goes late? What effect does it have on the others? What are the options for catching the time back up? Are there going to be any resource problems, where several tasks are happening at the same time, etc.
The other thing that's bad about a list of tasks... Sorry, but this is a bit of a pet-hate of mine. When people say they have a project plan and then they show me a list of tasks with dates on, I always ask them where they got the dates from, and they never say they got the dates from a Gantt chart. They always say that they made them up. So, those start and finish dates are probably wrong. A list is not a project plan. Only a Gantt chart is. I feel better now.
So, the questions for you are how good are you at kickoff meetings? Do you have them at all? Would it be better if you had two stages instead of just the one meeting? Please tell me that you don't have just a list of tasks with dates on them.
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- Describe the layout of a Gantt chart.
- Define the critical path.
- Differentiate between agile, scrum, and waterfall.
- Determine how to position the floating tasks.
- Explain when it’s ideal to use a Gantt template.
- Summarize why a Gantt chart is useful for communicating with customers.