17 Aug 2012

Quick, someone get me a Gantt chart

Category:
  • Project Management

Project Management CartoonThere is a great misconception that once you have a Gantt chart, you’ve cracked it, you have a plan and the project management for your business critical project is done. Even in today’s business world, I am not always convinced that everyone really understands the significant role that the Gantt chart plays in managing projects.

Ok, so if it’s not just about producing a set of visual boxes, calling it the project plan and flashing it off at the next executive meeting, what is so special about the Gantt chart?

The Gantt chart is actually a very powerful tool for managing the progress of a project and if used effectively, can provide sufficient warning of project slippage.

It can help the project manager plan out the tasks that need to be completed by providing:

  • A basis for scheduling when tasks will be carried out
  • The ability to plan the allocation of resources needed to complete a project
  • Help the project manager to work out the critical path for a project set against a specific timeline

A Gantt chart provides a visual image of the critical path for a project plan. This critical path provides a quick overview of the dependencies within an entire project and it helps project managers focus on the most important tasks that could delay a project's completion.

An essential concept behind project planning (and Critical Path analysis) is that some activities are very dependent on other activities being completed first. A good analogy for this concept is to think along the lines of:

‘It’s not possible to paint the wall in your house until you have a bought the paint, got a paintbrush and opened the paint tin’

painting

These dependent activities need to be completed in a sequence, with each stage being completed before the next activity can begin. These dependent activities are called ‘sequential' or 'linear'.

Other activities may not be dependent on completion of any other tasks and these can be done at any time before or after a particular stage in the project is reached. These are called nondependent or 'parallel' tasks and when a project is under way, Gantt charts are useful for monitoring project progress as you can immediately see what should have been achieved at any given point in time.

In summary, with applied logic the Gantt chart is a powerful tool and should be in every project manager’s toolkit for effective project management.

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