Gantt Charts, Simplified

Whether you love them or hate them, Gantt charts are part of project management, and Jennifer Bridges, PMP, makes them easily understood.

Here’s a shot of the whiteboard for your reference!

here's a simple way to understand Gantt charts

In Review: Gantt Charts, Simplified

Gantt charts are a fundamental tool in the field of project management and are a visual way to measure and manage a project as it progresses. But they can seem very complex and overly confusing if you don’t know how to used them. 

Jennifer began the tutorial by talking about the lifecycle of a project to first identify when the Gantt chart is created and why it is used.

A formal project begins with an initiating phase, then moves onto the planning, executing, monitoring & controlling and, lastly, the closing phase. A Gantt chart is used throughout the lifecycle of a project, but it is started in the planning phase. 

As a project manager adds individual tasks to the project, and defines their starting and ending dates, the Gantt chart displays colorful bars to represent each task’s duration and dates. Different colors can represent different types of tasks or different phases in a project. 

In the old days, project managers methodically plotted the Gantt with rulers and colored pencils on paper, or even used Lego blocks on giant wall boards to add length to each bar! In the past 20 years, downloadable software was developed to assist with the automatic visualization of the project timeline. 

Today, virtually anyone can use online project management software to generate Gantt charts easily, and they can be used as a project collaboration tool, as well.

Today’s teams add notes, documents, photos or even videos to each individual task and work together to update the overall project schedule. As tasks are updated, team members get email or text alerts letting them know when something is due and project managers get alerted when tasks are updated.

Pro-tip: Gantt charts have come a long way since their founding. Read our Ultimate Guide to Gantt Charts to take a deeper dive into how to use this important planning tool.

Take it further: Henry Gantt, the man responsible for the Gantt chart, wrote two books, Organizing for Work and Work, Wages and Profits, both classic reads to learn how to become more productive on the job.

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Video Transcription

Well, today we’re talking about Gantt charts, simplified. Some people either love them or hate them. Some people confuse the Gantt charts for the project management plan, but they’re two different things. Let’s talk about the project management life cycle, the project management process groups, and when the Gantt chart is created.

If we look at the project management life cycle and the process groups, we have the initiating phase, the planning, the executing, monitored controlling, and closing. In the planning phase, the schedule is produced, and the schedule includes information about the project activities, their durations, any dependencies, their plan dates, their resources assigned to complete those, and the milestones. For this schedule information, there are different groups of people who need to know information about the schedule, and they need to know it in different ways. We call that presentation styles.

The three different presentations styles are, one, you’ve probably heard of a network diagram. Network diagram is a graphical depiction of how the activities interact with each other. They show, again, the interdependencies. The second style, or presentation styles, is the milestone chart. It’s typically used for management reporting so they can see the critical dates and when they’re completed on a project. The third method is a bar chart. That, indeed, is the Gantt chart. It’s used for team reporting, so you can see activities and those plan dates in the progress along the way. Again, the Gantt chart is not the project management plan.

Let’s look and see what a Gantt chart looks like. Again, it’s a bar chart, so it lists the activity ID numbers, the activity names, their durations, their planned start date and finish date. And on this Gantt chart, it shows the progress along the way. So there are pluses and minuses about Gantt charts. The pluses are, a Gantt chart is really useful for progress tracking and progress reporting, again, with the team members doing those activities. It’s not so great for planning and organizing for you as a project manager because there are no lines and no interdependencies.

Ideally, if you can use a project management online software tool to help you do this, there are some alternatives. You can use Excel, or some things called SmartSheets to help you do this. It takes a little bit more time and effort for you, as a project manager, but still can be done.

If you need a tool that can help you simplify your Gantt charts, then sign up for our software now at

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