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 1

Step 2: List down the tasks associated under these phases

Step 2

Step 3: Fill in the start date and the estimated duration (days) which you think you can complete these tasks

Step 3

Step 4: Insert a 2D stacked bar chart as shown in the picture

Step 4

Step 5: Click on “Select Data” under Chart Tools > Design

Step 5

Step 6: Click “Add”

Step 6

Step 7: Enter “Start Date” into the series name field and select series values as shown

Step 7

Step 8: Click “Add”

Step 8

Step 9: Enter “Duration” into the series name field and select series values as shown

Step 9

Step 10: Click “Edit”

Step 10

Step 11: Select the range of cells as shown

Step 11

Step 12: Right click on the y-axis and format it

Step 12

Step 13: Check “Categories in reverse order”

Step 13

Step 14: Right click on the x-axis and format it

Step 14

Step 15: Use the following settings for the formatting

Step 15

Step 16: Right click on the “Start Date” series and format it. Select “No fill”

Step 16

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 17

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 18

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 19

Step 20: Adjust your Gantt chart to the most suitable size and you’re done!

Step 20

Here are two video walkthroughs to help you better understand the steps.

Simple Gantt chart

More complex Gantt chart