8 Truths About Gantt Charts that Every PM Should Know

Project management as a sphere is pacing rapidly. According to the Project Management Institute,  by 2027 almost 90 million individuals will be in demand for new project management-oriented roles. It means that the global economy will become more project-oriented and even some traditionally not projects-oriented industries like healthcare or professional services will focus on project management roles too.

To manage projects effectively, managers have to possess a combination of certain skills, personal as well as professional. Also, managers need to have a good command of special tools. A Gantt chart is one of them. Visualization makes it an effective solution for all those who deal with projects. As a chart has a descending Work Breakdown Structure, it is easy to follow the progress of a project and be aware of upcoming events.

What advantages does a Gantt chart have?

Gantt charts successfully found their niche in project management software. Lots of project planning tools rely on this bar chart. Among them are giants like MS Project and Smartsheet, their modern and affordable competitors like GanttPRO and many others used on a daily basis in professional spheres and for personal needs. You can even build a Gantt chart in the popular and commonly known Excel, though it requires time and efforts.

Now let’s speak about the truths about Gantt charts that every project manager should know. They can bring the described advantages to almost any project and improve execution.

  1. Process organization

In most cases, projects lack efficient organization as they consist of dozens of tasks and involve multiple team members. With a Gantt chart, there are more possibilities to organize an efficient work process.

To start with, it helps to define all the tasks from the very beginning and think over every assignment before a project even begins. To get a successful project, it is better to create groups of tasks and subtasks that form them. As a result, project managers get a clearly defined structure on a visually appealing Gantt chart timeline.

  1. Time management and planning

As projects very often consist of dependent tasks, it gets difficult to realize how much time each assignment will take. There is no clarity on the start and end dates. Notably, this is the case of complicated projects with multiple team members.

Thanks to two axes visualization, each task in a Gantt chart has clear time and deadlines indicators. Most online Gantt chart makers allow setting start and end dates right away. In addition, they are accompanied by calendars what makes project management more productive.

In case you cannot create a chart, you can manually build a checklist following these simple steps.

  1. Focus on current tasks and progress

It is crucial not to lose the project pace. Having no clues about the progress of the project and personal tasks, a team member can lose not only the status but interest as well.

With planned actions, steps, and events right in front of them on the screen, participants can keep track of tasks and current progress as well as realize how much work is expecting ahead.

  1. Identification of critical points and risk management

Gantt charts help to identify possible obstacles and critical points beforehand. Thanks to a clear visualization, managers will be aware of any delayed dates or frozen progress.

Elimination of problematic issues at the early stages will prevent projects from situations that may endanger its healthy state.

  1. Communication and collaboration

Projects do not exist in the vacuum. They include managers and team members. The more efficient communication and cooperation they will have, the more successful their project will be. Gantt charts allow improving those processes without the necessity to switch between different tools and sending reminders.

Moreover, these bar charts can replace constant meetings. Team members can get updates in a common workspace with tasks, dates, deadlines, dependencies, and milestones.

  1. Resource management

Resources are inherent subjects in project management. A resource is not necessarily a real team member. In 2019, you will hardly find a Gantt chart maker that does not offer the resource allocation feature. It allows managers to see who is underperforming or has too many tasks and if needed, reallocate resources.

With the proper tasks assignment and resource allocation, managers increase the chances to build rocking projects.

  1. Flexibility with multipurpose use

As twins’ behavioral patterns differ even if they grow up in an identical environment, there are no identical projects even if the same people plan it. There will always be unexpected situations, risks, and other unforeseen moments.

It underlines an important peculiarity of a Gantt chart – its flexibility. They are a good choice for a variety of professional spheres. Managers can use them for construction, software development, web design, retail, manufacture, education, professional services, product launch, and other spheres where it is possible to break down projects into smaller pieces. Gantt chart tools even offer ready-made templates to save time on planning.

  1. Milestones

Milestones are significant events in a project that have no duration. They show and indicate that a plan has reached a certain critical event and is developing as it was planned from the very beginning.

Milestones can be:

  • Start and end dates of tasks.
  • Critical points.
  • Other moments that are worth paying attention to.

Gantt charts are probably the most visualized ways to depict milestones and be aware of the right project development.

Managers can benefit a lot from using Gantt charts. Moreover, every single project manager can easily find other useful features and benefit from using them.

Winning Tactics For Tracking Construction Projects

[Editor’s Note: Today’s article is written by Chris Cook PMP. If you like his article, please visit his website The ENTREPMEUR]

Image Credit: Pixabay

Image Credit: Pixabay

Imagine yourself sitting in a room full of your peers. Some people you work with daily and others you have never met before. You are all there to be a part of a leadership conference hosted by your employer. Your selection was determined by your place in the company. To your organization, you are in a position to lead. The conference is a three-day event packed full of speakers and activities geared towards making you a better leader. During the breaks, you hear rumblings of people wondering why they are there and why the event even takes place. Overall, people are frustrated by the event and would rather be working.

On day two, there is a Q&A with the company’s masters of construction. They are a group of four senior managers who have a combined 100+ years’ experience in the industry. One of the board members is orating the ceremony. One of the emphases is change orders. The company is performing work without getting paid because the work is outside the scope of the original contract. Even with leading questions towards obvious answers, the masters continued to respond, “$50,000 on a $30 million project isn’t that much.” After a few follow up questions and receiving the same answers, the orator finally let the audience know that $50,000 is $50,000 and should not be overlooked. The dismissive answers of the masters mirrored the dismissive attitudes of the audience. No one was paying attention. The people at my table were on their cell phones. During the break, I was asking individuals if they noticed the lack of follow through on the questions and no one noticed. The active listener rate must have been me and me alone.

For the next day and a half, I was trying to take away as much information as possible. There were speakers from all backgrounds delivering techniques on team work and leadership. No matter what presenter was on stage, I continued to think back to the masters.

I struggled with the idea that a point of emphasis was being glossed over not only by the presenters, but also the entire audience. An issue of documentation and an hour’s work was not worth $50,000.

Key takeaways from the presentation:

  • Pay attention. We have all been in meetings we did not want to be in or thought we should not be in, but there are still ideas to take away from them. This enormous oversight was swept under the rug because no one was paying attention or wanted to be there. Imagine being in a 4-hour meeting and at the end, the owner tries to slip in a work package outside the scope. If you are bored or on your cell phone, you may not notice the change and have to live with the consequences.
  • Know your message. Stay on the script when presenting an idea or topic. The message to a large group should be clear. In this case, the orator had one message to convey while the presenters had quite another.
  • Stay humble even when you’re experienced. The presenters had a combined 100+ years in the industry. While they have forgotten more than I have learned, they have not remained a student. They have become content. Their ways have worked so they will continue on their path. No matter how long you have done something, there is always room for improvement. Why were these managers letting $50,000 change orders slip through the cracks? Because their mindset stays the same. The money is a speed bump (not a roadblock) in their world so keep driving over it.

What Can We Do to Better Track Construction Projects?

How can we, as project managers, meld old with new? Why not have the best of both worlds? Teaching is the best way. Have the older managers teach the younger managers their ways, and vice versa. Put an emphasis on learning. Far too often, there is an attitude of “That’s the way he does it so let him do it his way.” Or “That’s how it’s always done.” Why continue traditions with evident flaws? I understand change is difficult. Losing money unnecessarily is even more difficult.

The experienced managers should give the younger managers a checklist for mental audits. The checklist should include:

  • Look for ways to save. Often times, the emphasis is on making money. Ways to save money include recycle material for road base aggregate, cut and fill to limit trucking off site, and salvage materials to reduce the expense of buying new.

The younger managers need to drive technology. Whenever they find the opportunity, go for it. Show managers how useful the technology can be. Instead of driving 2 hours to check out a job site, Google Maps has street level views that can bring you there without leaving the office. Use formulas within the program to calculate how much stone you will need for backfilling the excavations instead of a scale and calculator. Not only is it quicker, but also more accurate. You cannot go from 0 to 100 on day one. Ease them into the capabilities. Open the dialogue for change.

Further Reading On Construction Projects

Construction projects tend to be in public view so we can learn from them. Explore the following resources to learn more about recent mega-construction projects.

Major International Construction Projects That Went Billions Over-Budget

The World’s 25 Most Impressive Megaprojects (Popular Mechanics) If you’re looking for inspiration on what can be accomplished with projects, look no further.

Megaprojects: The good, the bad, and the better (McKinsey) Imagine working on this project: “Dubai’s international airport is the world’s busiest, accounting for 21 percent of Dubai’s employment and 27 percent of its GDP.”

The Trouble with Megaprojects (The New Yorker). An interesting data point to consider is the rise of China: “China is most responsible for this explosion—according to the scientist Vaclav Smil, the country used more cement between 2011 and 2013 than the United States did during the entire twentieth century”