Join Chris Croft for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding Gantt charts, part of Learning Gantt Charts.
- Gantt Charts are one of the oldest surviving management tools. They were invented by an American called Henry Gantt way back in 1910, and it's amazing that in over a hundred years nobody has come up with something better. It makes me think that maybe there just isn't anything better. Here's an example of one, and you can see it's pretty intuitive, you've got dates across the top which can be weeks or months, or even days, and then the tasks listed down the side.
The bars show how long each task is going to take. Now there are four main uses for a chart like this. The first one is planning your project. Who is going to do what, how long will it take to get it all done? You can also plan how many people you'll need, and even how much money you'll need, as we'll see later. The second reason is explaining the project to other people. Everyone can see their part in the project, and even if they've had no training, they know intuitively what they're looking at.
The third reason is montioring whether we're still on schedule or not. This is done by coloring in the tasks that have been completed so far. Again, more on this later, but I do just want to stress that there is no other way that's ever been found to monitor the progress of a project. I had an inquiry from a customer about running a two day project management course and I sent them an outline of what I was going to do. And I was a little bit anxious because they were a company that make wind farms, and the people who work there are incredibly clever.
They use mathematical modeling to make a 3-D computer image of the mountain, and they simulate the fluid flow of the air over the mountain, so you can maximize the energy you get from the turbines. Because if you can get five percent more energy out, it's worth millions of pounds. So these people, they do lots of math, so they're really clever. So I thought they were probably going to know everything on my course, but nevertheless I sent them an outline of what I would do over the two days. And they emailed back and they said, we think it looks great except you don't need to do Gantt Charts because we don't use Gantt Charts at our company.
And I thought well that's weird, what do they use instead? They've probably got some really clever thing that they've invented. So I mailed back, saying okay fine, I'll just miss out the Gantt Charts. But just out of curiosity, how do you monitor your progress against your plan? How do you know whether you're still on schedule to finish on time or not? And there was a week of silence from the other end. And then I got this email back and it said, okay then, do the Gantt Charts. (laughter) And I thought, yes! But I was a little bit disappointed as well, because I was hoping they were going to show me something really clever that they'd invented, but there is nothing else in all the years I've been teaching this.
Nobody has been able to show me anything better than a Gantt Chart for monitoring progress. Anyway, finally, the fourth reason why Gantt Charts are great is for adjusting your plan if things change during your project. Which they inevitably will. Maybe extra tasks have to be added, maybe the whole plan suddenly needs to be speeded up, or maybe you're running late and you have to issue an amended plan to everybody involved. The Gantt Chart makes all of this easy, so in the next section I'm going to explain how to construct one for your project.
But first I'd like you to just take a moment to think about whether you have a chart like this for each of your projects, and if not, do you think it would be helpful if you did?
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- What is a Gantt chart?
- Estimating times and adding contingency
- Assessing the Gantt chart software options
- Using Gantt chart templates
- Communicating the plan
- Accelerating projects with Gantt charts