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A Gantt Chart is a tool used for scheduling projects, events or personal milestones or goals. It is created to show the order of actions (tasks) that must be done before a project can be considered complete. Henry Gantt, a mechanical engineer, invented the Gantt chart in the 1910s. He designed his chart so that production foreman could watch schedules to ensure the work was being done on time. Gantt charts were used when building the Hoover Dam and for organizing large projects.
Think in reverse. For example, July 30th is the completion date. There are 10 tasks that must be completed before that time. The first step is to decide what task must be completed last and what task must be completed first. Then decide what task cannot be completed until another task is done. Tasks that cannot be started until another is complete are known as interdependency tasks.
Decide if a simple or complex Gantt chart is needed. A simple Gantt chart contains columns for the task, responsible person and dates before completion. A complex chart can include those columns plus start and end dates, number of days it will take to complete the task, number of days that have elapsed, sub-tasks and percent complete.
Put the task name in the left-most column (one task per row), the responsible person's name in the second column and arrange the remaining columns by month, day or week. For a complex chart, include columns for percentages or other information deemed important for tracking the project.
Draw a line or hollow box to show the expected length of time each task will take, lining up the box under the appropriate start and end dates. Consider the interdependency tasks and arrange them underneath each other and under their main task. Stand-alone tasks can be adjusted throughout the project life for the best use of resources and time.
Remember to allow for flexibility in your project time-line. If the final due date is July 30th, it is generally a good idea to plan its completion two to three days earlier. This allows for the possibility of employee illness or another unplanned event.
Color in the task indicated on the chart as it is completed or use a different color to indicate the task is complete. The date of completion may be added to the chart, if so desired. If the project is long, the manager may consider small celebratory steps along the way in order to encourage employees to stay on track.
Review the time-line regularly (such as daily) to ensure the projects tasks are being completed in a timely manner. If the project is running behind schedule, rearranging tasks might be necessary. Conversely, if the project is ahead of schedule, rearrange some tasks that might be more difficult to ensure meeting the original deadline.
Taking a class in project management is a good idea, as it gives a person an overview of planning. Gantt Charts can be created in a spreadsheet program. Gantt Chart software can be purchased online or from most software retailers.
- Virginia Lutz