In this post, we will discuss everything you need to know about Gantt charts. We will be introducing what Gantt charts are, how they have come about, who should use it, and the pros and cons of using them. On top of that, we will demonstrate how you can create your very own basic Gantt Chart.
What are Gantt charts
Gantt charts serve as a scheduling tool which allows you to visually see your plan of action on a project. A Gantt chart helps to bridge the gaps of a plan by incorporating the timeline for when tasks of the project should be implemented. Essentially, by visualising project management timelines in cascading horizontal bar charts with tasks that may be interdependent on one another, it aims to help you get a better overview of the project.
How Gantt charts came about
The initial prototype of the Gantt chart was first developed in the mid 1890s by a Polish engineer named Karol Adamiecki. He created the first visual work flow chart which he called a “harmonogram.”
Around 15 years after Adamiecki, Henry Gantt further improved on Adamiecki’s “harmonogram”. With the goal of helping manufacturing supervisors determine if their work was behind of, ahead of, or on schedule, Gantt’s work formed the foundation of the tool we know of and use today.
Who should use Gantt charts
Gantt charts are for everyone who need to plan and schedule their list of tasks that fall under an overarching goal or theme. Hence, this useful tool can be used for personal management, team level coordination, as well as on the corporate level. In general, if you are working on a longer project with a high number of elements and tasks, the Gantt chart may be a tool which you would like to consider using.
Advantages of using Gantt charts
1. Simplified Summary of Tasks
The Gantt chart helps to simplify complex linear list of tasks by collating them into a single visual diagram which helps in understanding of the project as a whole, by illustrating these thoughts and ideas together in a pictorial format.
2. Visibility of Project Progress
With Gantt charts being visual in nature, it is much easier to view a project’s progress through the bars that it displays. This improves the accountability of members of the project as it allows the team leader to track the team’s progress and discuss forward-planning strategies during review sessions.
By understanding if a project’s task is on schedule, the project manager is able to use the Gantt chart to remind members to keep to the schedule for punctual delivery of the project. Also, by using bars to indicate the duration of a task, it gives you a better perspective of the total project, and the timeframe as a whole.
3. Clarity of Project Implementation
When you execute a complex project, you will have a great multitude of tasks. With a visual tool like the Gantt chart, there is clarity in implementing these tasks as they are displayed in a single document. It shows how the interplay of tasks come together towards project completion.
The clarity of mind to know how long a project should take for completion aids in the management of time, scope of work, as well as motivation. As Stephen R. Covey puts it “Start with the end in mind”. A clear plan which shows all that needs to be done and in what order helps decision-makers look farther ahead to ensure each given project is working toward the achievement the organization’s long-term strategic objectives.
The Gantt chart also promotes the concept of dividing and conquering, as it breaks project into smaller tasks and shows what is to be delivered in each project phase. This makes it much easier for the project’s tasks to be executed, and for the overall project to be successfully completed.
4. Concise Communication & Coordination
The Gantt chart helps to keep everyone involved in the project on the same page. This means that all stakeholders are able to possess the same information, where mutually understood expectations can be set and managed better. Project managers would then be better able to communicate concisely to subcontractors and lead them more strategically.
With this ease of coordination project managers would have the ability to sequence events and break projects into smaller manageable tasks, which ultimately prevents overburden
5. Increased Task Efficiency of a Team
A team member can start on another task while waiting for a dependent task to be completed by other members. The Gantt chart helps one to focus on what truly needs to be done, thus making you more organised and allowing for a more successful project.
With better focus, there will naturally be better time management. This useful tool helps to foster greater collaboration, with the ability to see the impact of delays of tasks through understanding task relationships. Eventually, this ensures optimum work flow, maximised productivity and overall project success.
Disadvantages of using Gantt charts
1. Danger of being too detailed
If you become too detailed, you might end up losing sight of the bigger picture of the project. Hence, it is always a good practice, especially for big businesses, to have project managers overseeing each project that they have undertaken.
2. Size of bar doesn’t indicate amount of work to be done
The Gantt chart serves to give just a general gauge of tasks. The bars of the Gantt chart does not show how much work each task will involve or the amount of people or resources each task will require.
3. Need for constant updating
A Gantt chart can be quite troublesome to update. As tasks are completed or reviewed, the chart will need to be updated frequently to reflect those changes. Any amendments to the chart takes time to be carried out, which can be better spent working on the actual tasks.
4. Difficult to see on one sheet of paper
On occasions where the project is more complex, it is difficult to show details of the plan, and charts can be too large and hard to read.
How to create a basic Gantt chart
Now, let us explore more into creating a basic Gantt Chart.
Step 1: List down the main phases of your project
Step 2: List down the tasks associated under these phases
Step 3: Fill in the start date and the estimated duration (days) which you think you can complete these tasks
Step 4: Insert a 2D stacked bar chart as shown in the picture
Step 5: Click on “Select Data” under Chart Tools > Design
Step 6: Click “Add”
Step 7: Enter “Start Date” into the series name field and select series values as shown
Step 8: Click “Add”
Step 9: Enter “Duration” into the series name field and select series values as shown
Step 10: Click “Edit”
Step 11: Select the range of cells as shown
Step 12: Right click on the y-axis and format it
Step 13: Check “Categories in reverse order”
Step 14: Right click on the x-axis and format it
Step 15: Use the following settings for the formatting
Step 16: Right click on the “Start Date” series and format it. Select “No fill”
Step 17: Right click on the earliest “Start Date” and click on “General” as the category. Note down the number (eg. 42370) and then click “Cancel”.
Step 18: Right click on the latest “End Date” and click on “General” as the category. Note down the number (eg. 42442) and then click “Cancel”.
Step 19: Right click on the x-axis and apply these two numbers under “Axis Options”. This is to accurately frame your Gantt chart.
Step 20: Adjust your Gantt chart to the most suitable size and you’re done!
Here are two video walkthroughs to help you better understand the steps.
Simple Gantt chart
More complex Gantt chart