Author: sean matthews
One big divide for project managers is Gantt charts. Some project managers love them. Others will not go near them. Is one right and one wrong? What are the benefits of using a Gantt chart to plan out and control your project?
An experienced project manager once told me years ago that if a task wasn't on your Gantt chart, it wouldn't get done. The Gantt chart had to represent everything that was happening on that project, down to the smallest detail. This level of minute detail is certainly what draws some project managers to it in the first place.
The other element that project managers like about a Gantt chart is the ability to plot of dependencies between different tasks. Most modern Gantt chart software will automatically move along tasks with related dependencies if one is late. That can give a project manager a good understand of what sort of impact a delay will have to their project.
So why have some people emphatically said they are loath to use it? The biggest criticism is that it is a cumbersome way of plotting activity which is too detailed to manage on a practical level. There is certainly some element of truth there. Having potentially hundreds of individual tasks to monitor on such a minute level is difficult for even the most experienced project manager. Particularly since project managers are generally very busy people and not necessarily sitting at their desk all day reading through task lists.
Furthermore, when it gives you dependencies, you only get half the picture. Yes, your software can tell you that everything else has moved on 5 days. Great. What it won't give you a picture of is how many of those tasks can’t happen 5 days later because of other issues you have to contend with. For example, some equipment is only available that week.
When you are working in a practical sense, it seems clear that a Gantt chart will not provide a full picture. However, it does have its uses. The answer? Don't let yourself become dependent on it, but use it in conjunction with other means of monitoring and controlling a project. Make sure that behind every line item on a Gantt chart, you have the full picture. You know what issues can exist on each of them. Furthermore check that you are managing those effectively with the team and that they are not just working to a task line item on a chart but that they understand the full deliverables from that item of work.
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