What do you have to do in order to complete a project?
First of all, you must oversee a large number of activities. Plus, you must make sure that they’re completed on schedule. Because, if you miss a deadline, or finish a task out of sequence – the entire project (together with its results) will suffer.
And that is why is so important to be up to date with every single phase or task within the project. You, as a project leader, must be able to see everything that needs to be done, so you can know, at a glance, when each activity needs to be completed.
That is where Gantt charts take center stage. They outline all of the tasks involved in a project, and their order, shown against a timescale.
With it you have an instant overview of a project, its associated tasks, and when these need to be finished. Gantt charts are usually used for planning projects of all sizes and they are a useful way of showing what work is scheduled to be done on a specific day.
When was the Gantt chart created?
Origins of the tool
In the late 1800s, Polish engineer Karol Adamiecki developed a visual workflow chart that he called a “harmonogram”. Henry Gantt, a management consultant and engineer, took Adamiecki’s concept to the next stage.
It was created with an idea to help manufacturing supervisors see whether their work was at, ahead of, or behind schedule.
That was the beginning of the tool we all know and use today.
At first, harmonogram use led to increases in output between 100% and 400% in metal rolling mills, in machine shops, in chemical plants, in agriculture, and in mining.
Basically, Adamiecky’s charts were just various work-flow network diagrams, and they resulted in graphical solutions to production problems.
Somewhere around 1957, harmonograms moved to the US where they will soon enough start a whole new life. One of its offspring is a Program of Evaluation and Review Technique, or how we call it today – PERT.
Gantt Charts and the advantages
What made this Polish invention spread and develop so quickly, all over the world, is its primary advantage – straightforward simplicity.
Even though Henry. L. Gantt invented a variety of charts, collectively known as the Gantt charts, they all employ a bar-graph presentation, based on the production time and production quantity for each operation in the production process.
Thanks to this, Gantt charts are an easy way to schedule tasks and track the progress of your project against your deadline. To put it simply, this is a planning tool that displays (through horizontal bar graphs) the beginning and finishes dates of each and every individual tasks.
It makes easy to schedule the tasks, understand, and give a clear and visual representation of time frames.
And yes, you can always create a Gantt chart by using a spreadsheet, but for rather complex projects with many tasks it is better to use more modern solutions.
Gantt chart’s Critical Path
However, we must be honest and present here its flaws as well as its advantages. The main one is that it does not show the dependency of tasks to each other and it does not show which tasks are ‘critical’ to finishing the project on time.
You can solve this in two ways. First one is much simpler and automated – it only takes Teodesk and its feature of creating a dependency between tasks. The other way is to use a so-called Critical Path Method (CPM).
What is it?
It’s a sequence of tasks that must be finished before the project can be finished. Sometimes, a task has to be finished before the next dependent one can start, so if a task cannot be finished on time, then the whole project will take longer to the same extent.
Steps in Using a Gantt chart
Step 1: Identify Essential Tasks
Make a list all of the project activities, and then – note the earliest start date and its estimated duration, for each task individually.
Step 2: Determine Task Relationships
Task and activities can be defined as sequential/linear or parallel. The first ones must be executed before others while parallel can be done at the same time as other tasks.
This is the step where you must clearly identify which of your project’s tasks are parallel, and which are sequential. This will give you a deeper understanding of how to organize your project.
In the Gantt charts, there are three main relationships between sequential tasks:
- Finish to Start (FS) – FS tasks can’t start before a previous (and related) task is finished. However, they can start later.
- Start to Start (SS) – SS tasks can’t start until a preceding task starts. However, they can start later.
- Finish to Finish (FF) – FF tasks can’t end before a preceding task ends. However, they can end later.
Step 3: Input Activities
Into a template (which is pretty old fashioned and complicated) or a software.
Step 4: Chart Progress
As your project moves along, it will evolve. So, be sure to update your chart to reflect changes as soon as they occur. This way, you can keep up with your plans.
Gantt Chart Benefits
Transparency and clarity
Gantt charts are boiling down multiple tasks and timelines into a single document. Plus, Gantt helps with a project by making it clear:
- Who on the team is going to complete the task
- When they’re going to complete it by
- How that individual task relates to the project as a whole
Gantt gives you the opportunity to replace meetings and enhance other status updates. Besides, while using it – you are providing an easy, visual method to help team members understand task progress.
When facing a form of external motivation, team members become more effective. They can focus on work as every team member can implement their own work habits into the overall project schedule.
With Gantt, members of a team can include the ability to sequence events and reduce the potential for overburdening team members. This is particularly important for project managers and resource schedulers.
Any project manager that used Gantt will tell you that scheduling is one of its major benefits. Especially in a creative environment.
When you are free to issue new charts as your project evolves, you can react to unexpected changes in project scope or timeline.
Gantt charts help you appraise how long a project would take, determine the resources needed, and plan the order in which you’ll complete tasks. They are making scheduling more effective, as they can help managers visualize their resource capacity. This allows them to mindfully allocate people to projects so key resources don’t become overworked.
Besides, Gantt charts enable greater team productivity as they help individuals better manage their time, which in turn helps teams improve their overall performance.
The most common project management actions performed using Gantt charts are:
- Visualizing schedule
- Assigning due dates to tasks
- Assigning staff to tasks
- Identifying the critical path
- Tracking the progression of work items
So, if something is showing to be useful for more than a 100 years, maybe it is time for you to try it?