You may have a reasonably sized project in your organization. The project activity may occur over several months and have various tasks. Usually some tasks depend on another. That is, some of the tasks cannot start until other tasks finish. You can put this in words, but sometimes it can be difficult to understand the meaning of a document that establishes a project like this. One technique to handle the management of a project is a Gantt chart. This provides you with a pictorial method of managing your project.
These charts can be made quite sophisticated and complex. For small businesses, you want to avoid this. The purpose of having the chart is to try to make things clearer and simpler for the people involved in the project. Too much complexity leads to information overload and people will feel overwhelmed.
A Gantt chart is built by first listing all the things you can think of that need to be done on a project. This could be quite a long list. Then you need to group those tasks under specific headings. For a Gantt chart that is going to be used for people to look at on a regular basis so they can get an idea of what is going on in a project, the chart should be limited to these high-level headings. The person running the project can keep a more detailed version.
These are some of the advantages of Gantt charts.
Create an image of complexity.. I am quite fond of diagrams and graphs. We think in images. Therefore, if we can see complex ideas as an image, it will help our understanding.
organize your thoughts. I’m also a big fan of the divide and conquer concept. A big problem is solved by dividing it into parts. A Gantt chart will force you to do this.
Show that you know what you’re doing. When you produce a well-presented Gantt chart with properly organized high-level tasks and resources assigned to those tasks, it says a lot about whether you are aware of the needs of the project and whether the project will be successful.
(Should) help you set realistic time frames. The bars on the graph indicate in which period a particular task or set of tasks will be completed. This can help you put things into perspective properly. And when you do this, be sure to think about events in your organization that have nothing to do with this project that could consume resources and time.
can be highly visible. It may be helpful to post the chart, or a large version of it, where everyone can see it. This helps remind people of goals and when certain things are going to happen. It’s helpful if everyone in your company can have a basic level of understanding of what’s going on with the project, even if they’re not directly involved in it.
Here are some disadvantages of Gantt charts.
They can become extraordinarily complex.. Except for the simplest projects, there will be a large number of tasks to be performed and resources used to complete the project. There are some very good software programs that can deal with all this complexity (for example, Microsoft Project). However, when the project reaches this level, it must be managed by a small number of people (perhaps one) who manage all the details. Sometimes this does not work as well in a business that is not used to this type of management. Large companies often employ one or more project managers who are highly skilled at this. For various reasons, this may not work as well in a smaller company.
The size of the bar does not indicate the amount of work. Each bar on the chart indicates the time period over which a particular set of tasks will be completed. However, by looking at the bar for a particular set of tasks, you cannot tell what level of resources are required to accomplish those tasks. Thus, a short bar may require 500 hours of labor, while a longer bar may require only 20 hours of labor. The longer bar may indicate to the uninformed that it is a larger task, when in fact it is not.
They need to be constantly updated. As you get into a project, things will change. If you are going to use a Gantt chart, you must have the ability to change the chart easily and frequently. If you don’t do this, you will be ignored. Again, you’ll likely need software to do this, unless you’re keeping project management to a high standard.
Hard to see on a sheet of paper. The software products that produce these graphics must be viewed on a computer screen, usually in segments, in order to see the entire project. Then it becomes difficult to show the details of the plan to an audience. You can also print the chart, but this will usually involve a lot of “cut and paste” exercise. If you are going to do this often, it can take a long time.
Using a Gantt chart is a tried and true method of managing a project. If you haven’t used a project methodology before, you’d like to start with this one.
Wishing you an easier business.