How to Use a Gantt Chart

ProjectManager.com

You use Gantt charts for your projects, but do you know the history of the Gantt chart and the best practices for using the Gantt chart? Watch project management trainer and expert Devin Deen shows us the full capabilities of the mighty Gantt.

Here’s a copy of the whiteboard for your reference:

In Review: How to Use Gantt Charts

Devin discussed how Henry L. Gantt developed the chart named after him around 1917, as a way to analyze and synthesize workflows and improve economic and labor results for a world at war. His collaboration with the army helped coordinate their targets with factory production at a critical time during World War I.

It wasn’t until the 1980s, with the proliferation of the PC and, with it, Gantt chart software, that project managers and schedulers came fully on board with this tool. They proved a very useful tool in the planning and execution phase of a project for identifying tasks and allocating resources. When online, they’re also a great way to stay collaborative team members and stakeholders.

Pro-Tip: While Gantt charts have become an established part of every project, it’s also good to not become overly reliant on them and explore other tools and techniques. There are downsides to everything, and knowing weakness you can avoid those potential risks and get to know other tools to strengthen your ability to manage.

Take it further: Read our Ultimate Guide to Gantt Charts.

Thanks for watching!

Transcript

Hi and welcome. I’m Devin Deen, Content Director here at ProjectManager.com. In today’s whiteboard session I’m going to give you a little history around Gantt charts with the view to help you understand how they can be best used, and things to avoid when you are using Gantt charts. Now Gantt charts are great at showing planned and actual progress of any number of tasks against a horizontal time scale.

They were first developed by Henry L. Gantt around 1917. Now he was a pioneer in the area of scientific management which was looking at analyzing and synthesizing workflows to improve economic results, in particular, labor productivity. Now this was especially important around that time, because World War I was happening, and the war factories had to lift their game and improve in their production rates on all the munitions that they were preparing for the soldiers over in Europe.

Word got round about Henry to the war department, and the Chief Ordinance Officer at the time, General Crozier, decided that he wanted Henry on his staff, and he hired him as a consultant. As a result, Gantt started using his charts with the factories, and with the Army to get everyone on the same page in terms of production levels. Up until that time, the only way the factories had to communicate how they were going against their production targets were in tabular or written content. So you can see the great advancement that a visual indication of how they were going against the production targets was quite revolutionary at the time.

Now if you fast-forward to the 1980s, a lot of PCs were being developed, and being promulgated throughout the workplace. With those PCs came Gantt chart software. And specialists such as project managers, and project schedulers started using the Gantt software to start producing their project schedules. Today, we’re fortunate to have online and intuitive Gantt chart software such as from ProjectManager.com that experienced project managers, and casual project managers can use to collaborate interactively with their project teams or stakeholders during the planning and execution phase.

Now what these project managers are doing is they’re setting with their project teams the schedule identifying the tasks, looking at the resources required, and sequencing the tasks against a time scale in a way that supports the delivery of the project to that deadline.

So Gantt charts are really good and helpful during the planning and the execution phase to show you those tasks that are planned, and how things are going against those plans. They’re also very good when you’re reallocating your resources. So if you’re having to shift people around, or shift gear, they’re very handy in being able to let you do that in an intuitive and fast method in that software.

Where they kind of fall over is if you have a project schedule with a lot of precedence, a lot of dependencies between the tasks. And we’ve all been there, we’ve all tried to diagram that out, and what you end up doing is you have a raining. It looks like a rainfall of project dependencies coming down in the finish and start relationships. Also, when things are going a little bit wonky on your projects, and you’re trying to work out how to deal with, or how to compensate with lateness, Gantt charts aren’t very good at that at all. I would recommend moving to a different type of diagramming such as activity on the arrow, or activity on the note which most Gantt chart software today will allow you to translate back into those different diagramming methods.

The thing to watch out for though is complexity. If you’ve got a really complex Gantt chart, there’s going to be a heap of different tasks, or activities that are lost in that translation. The key lesson learned from that is to keep it simple when you’re working with those Gantt charts.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s whiteboard session, and I hope my little history lesson will spur you on to learn more about Gantt charts, and how to use them effectively on your project. For your projects your way, come see us at ProjectManager.com.

Get the Best PM Tools for Your Team

Start a Free Trial