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Gantt Chart in Project Management: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Lucinda Stanley

Lucinda has taught business and information technology and has a PhD in Education.

In this lesson we will explore the uses of Gantt charts in project management. We will learn what a Gantt chart is, a little of its history, and see an example of a simple Gantt chart in use.

Gantt Chart in Project Management

Are you in charge of putting together an event for your organization? Are you overwhelmed by the scope of the project and wonder how are you going to keep everything that has to be done, straight and on track?

This can be a problem, but there are tools that you can use to help you manage these large projects. One of the most commonly used tools for project management is the Gantt chart.

Gantt Chart
Gantt Chart

What is a Gantt Chart?

A Gantt chart is a simple to use framework that shows a visual representation of large projects, broken into smaller pieces or activities with each of these activities spread out over time.

A Gantt chart shows at a glance, what the individual activities are, when each one should begin and end, if there is any overlap between activities, and how the project can be completed within a given time limit.

Typical uses for a Gantt chart include: developing a software prototype, planning a large event, and writing a multi-departmental report.

History

Gantt charts have been around for a while. Karol Adamiecki developed the first one in the mid 1890's in Poland, to help him manage large engineering projects at the steelworks he managed. In the mid 1910's, Henry Gantt, an American engineer, developed a similar framework as part of his consulting business. They became more widely used, and ultimately were named after Mr. Gantt.

Advantages and Disadvantages

One of the major advantages of Gantt charts is the ability to monitor the progress of a large project. Some other advantages for using a Gantt chart are:

  • Communication: An updated Gantt chart can show at a glance how the project is progressing, which could eliminate the need for multiple meetings to share the same information.
  • Motivation: Seeing the big picture of a project and where it stands, can motivate the project team to push for completion. The team won't get bogged down in figuring out what comes next.
  • Flexibility: It is easy to make alterations to a Gantt chart once a project has begun.
  • Efficiency: Knowing in advance all the activities that go into a large project can allow more efficient use of time - other activities can be begun while waiting for responses or feedback from other team members.

One major disadvantage in using Gantt charts in project management is that the chart can become too detailed and thus, cumbersome. Managing the Gantt chart becomes a project in and of itself. Another major disadvantage is that Gantt charts don't show priorities. It is difficult to indicate a high priority activity versus an activity that would be nice to have, if there is sufficient time. It is also difficult to indicate in a Gantt chart the costs that are associated with the project as a whole, or the individual activities.

A Gantt Chart Example

Gantt charts can be created using specific project management software such as Smartsheet. They can also be created using simple word processing or spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Word or Excel.

No matter what program you use, or even if you're using just a sheet of paper, the process will be the same. The first step is to analyze the project to determine the best way to divide the project into smaller activities, and then to assign an amount of time that each activity is expected to take.

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