The use of Gantt Charts in Project Management

Subject: Business
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 10
Word count: 2745
Topics: Management, Innovation


The research paper focuses on the analysis of the use of Gantt charts in managing projects. Various organizations employ project management tools such as MS Project, Wrike, Basecamp, and Genius Project in various operations. Gantt charts are common in managing complex projects, and most organizations use it (Durfee, 2012). The chart shows individual activities, the start and end dates, any overlapping activities, and the dates the project can be completed, just at a glance. Gantt charts are used in software prototype development, large event planning, multi-departmental report writing, engineering construction, among other applications sectors. Historically, the name Gantt chart was adopted after Henry Gantt, an American engineer in the 1910s (Durfee, 2012). Mr. Gantt offered the consultation services regarding the use of Gantt charts in project management. Also illustrated in this study include the understanding of Gantt charts in project management, the fundamentals of project planning, the requisite elements of Gantt Charts, computer-based software to generate Gantt charts, steps to construct and manage projects using Gantt charts, and the appropriateness of Gantt charts.


Project managers must ensure that events, tasks, and activities in their disposals operate adequately and efficiently. Modern project management technologies help in the various operations within a variety of industries. These techniques mostly adopted give a graphical overview of planning and working procedures by the use of charts. The commonly existing tools are Gantt, Critical Path Methods (CPM) and PERT (Durfee, 2012). The primary objective of this paper is to present an in-depth research on Gantt chart and its significance in project management.

Tasks organizations can be very hectic for the leaders in charge of a particular event within an organization. The scopes of projects frequently overwhelm, and managers need to employ the use of Gantt charts to keep all activities straight, on track, and within the time constraints (Durfee, 2012). Gantt chart is an easy to understand the graphical framework that visually represents a large project, subdivided into activities, each of which is spread depending on start and end dates. The chart shows individual activities, the start and stop dates, any overlapping activities, and the dates the project can be completed, just at a glance (Wren & Wren, 2015). Gantt charts are used in software prototype development, large event planning, multi-departmental report writing, engineering construction, among other applications sectors.

Background and History of Gantt Charts

A Polish engineer, Karol Adamiecki, developed an interest in ideas and techniques of management. He was the first to develop a hand-drawn Gantt chart in the mid-1890’s to enable him in managing an engineering work at the steelwork company that he managed in Poland. According to Seymour & Hussein (2014), later in the mid-1910’s, an American engineer, Henry Gantt, barely fifteen years later, established for his business a similar framework that he used for offering business consultations. The chart became widely known and applied in the western nations, and eventually assumed the name of Mr. Gantt because of his close association with the charts.

Gantt charts were originally drawn by hand. The system had some limitations. Each time an amendment was presented, or when a task changed, the manager had to redraw the chart, the situation which limited their usefulness. Dynamism is an indubitable nature of most projects because their frequent change is inevitable (Seymour & Hussein, 2014). Nevertheless, due to the advent of computer technologies, the current project management tools and software are advanced and allow easy creation and update using Gantt charts. Today, these charts are useful and available for tracking project schedules. It promptly shows additional information regarding various phases or tasks of the project (Seymour & Hussein, 2014). For instance, it illustrates the relationship between events, work progress, and the necessary resources or teams to enable each task.

Gantt charts in Project Management

Gantt chart is one of the popular and significant ways of illustrating activities (events and tasks) against time, commonly used by project managers. The vertical axis, on the left, shows activities which are plotted against a suitable time scale (horizontal axis). According to Seymour & Hussein (2014), activities are represented by horizontal bars. The position and position of the bars indicate the duration in time, date and the completion date for the project. At a glance Gantt charts allow the management team to see various tasks, their duration, and start and end dates, activity overlap and its threshold, and the entire project’s start and end date (Durfee, 2012). In short, from the Gantt chart, the manager knows the activities that must be done and their schedules (when they have to be done), after which he or she appropriately assign teams.

Fundamentals of Project Planning

Gantt chart is a necessary tool in project planning. A project composes of a set of activities that should end after particular achievements. Moreover, a project has distinct start and finish date, resource constraints (people, money, time, and equipment), and non-routine activities. Every task accomplished must achieve a particular goal concerning the main aim of the project (Gido, Clements & Clements, 2014). Tasks are further broken down into subtasks. Each task has starting and ending dates, and a duration which is relatively shorter than the term of the project itself. It is often challenging to set duration accurately, and doubling the best guess often works well (Durfee, 2012).  Creation of tasks uses verb-names and action verbs. For instance, create drawings, search literature, or build prototype.

Project milestones often help to check interim goal accomplishment and work as the best checkpoints for a project. Milestones are useful for detecting scheduling problems early enough before it goes overboard and become uncontrollable (Kerzner, 2013). The appropriate verb phrases for describing the project milestones are, for instance, parts ordered, report due, and prototype complete among others. Plans or schedules are likely to evolve. Therefore, the managers must be ready to be flexible and make frequent updates. Project planning helps to identify areas that are risky in the project, and therefore managers learn and devise appropriate ways deal with them (Durfee, 2012). Moreover, such risks may assist in estimating the duration it may take and assign the necessary resources for its accomplishment (Gido, Clements & Clements, 2014). Gantt charts are the simplest tools in project planning that enable an understanding of complex events.

Fundamentals of Gantt Charts

As a project planning tool, Gantt chart represents the timing of each task necessary in completing a project. The construction of the chart is easy and has the capability to manage complex projects therefore making the adoption of Gantt charts common by most project managers (Heagney, 2016). In Gantt charts, tasks are outlined in the columns, dates take up the top row, indicating increments of months, weeks, or days depending on the prescribed length of the project. Horizontal bars represent the expected timings with the furthest left marking the beginning of activity while the furthest right represents the expected date of completion. Project tasks can overlap or run either in parallel or sequentially.

Gantt charts are updated as the project progresses. Project managers or operation managers fill the bars by assigning them with their relative lengths proportional to the accomplished work fraction of a task. The order allows quick and easy reading of the project progress by simply drawing a vertical line through the current date within the Gantt chart (Wren & Wren, 2015). The already accomplished tasks are situated on the left of the drawn line, and they can be shaded. The tasks that are filled in sections to the left of the line are behind schedule whereas the filled-in sections that end to the right are ahead of schedule. Future tasks are entirely on the right side of the line.

The construction of Gantt chart requires that a manager inputs a manageable number of tasks (15 to 20) for the chart to fit just a single page (Heagney, 2016). In the event that there are subtasks, especially for complex projects, subordinate charts are utilized to display timings of all the subtasks that make up a primary task. For projects that involve teams, it is important to have an additional column that contains either the numbers or the initials of the team leader in charge of the task. These projects often include significant events that managers would find fit to appear on the timelines; however, they are not tasks (Wren & Wren, 2015). For instance, it may be important to incorporate the date when a model is complete or a design review date. Special symbols, more often resembling an inverted triangle are used to mark such events or milestones shown on the Gantt chart.

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Computer-based Software to Generate Gantt Charts

Project planning software packages are quite numerous. The modern examples include; Microsoft (MS) Project, Wrike, Basecamp, and Genius Project, among others. The commonly used application to generate Gantt charts is the MS Project. According to Anantatmula (2015), it would be very hectic to manage a project in the absence of such technology. Making a Gantt chart requires listing of tasks (about 15), splitting the activities into subtasks, and finally constructing one main Gantt chart, and another one for subtasks, both designed on their own sheets (Heagney, 2016). It is crucial to keep in mind that subtasks are what constitute tasks for a particular project. In the design of Gantt charts, the selection of resolution is very vital. Projects that extend to three or fewer months can use days, longer ones can use months or weeks, and very short projects can use hours.

Steps to Construct and Manage Projects using Gantt Charts

The following are the basic methodologies that are necessary to create a Gantt chart. The first phase is the development of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). The step breaks down a particular project into manageable and definable or easy to understand milestones, tasks, and goals (Horne, 2014). The lists of simpler components can be listed on spreadsheets, word processor or through the selected Gantt chart program itself. At this stage, the manager plans the intended outcomes, not the actions. The project goal is set, key milestones defined, and then the project is broken down into tasks. The fixed dates must be clearly illustrated in the charts, and the weight of topics identifies the necessary supplies for the fulfillment of projects (Vance, Vaiman, Cosic, Abedi & Sena, 2014). After the determination of the main topics, the project manager then breaks them into tasks, and complexity of tasks may call for further breakdown into subtasks until they are very particular. The majority of project planners prefer visual models of WBS since they are easier to work with during Gantt chart design.

The second step entails tasks assignment. Work distribution is a critical piece in the building of Gantt chart. At this stage, the following are taken into consideration; the most qualified team to complete the task, the availability or the current workload, completion time expectation, and is additional resources or people will be required to finalize the responsibility within the stipulated time (Horne, 2014). The third step is to build timelines, a process that can take place through various ways. When using spreadsheets, the manager should organize columns with dates for several tasks (the start and end dates). The task scheduling should never coincide with either holidays or weekends (Vance et al., 2014). In other Gantt chart software packages, the designer can easily drag the bars to fit the scheduled timelines.

The fourth step is to assess the task dependencies. The stage is applicable where one task is dependent on the outcome or the completion of another before which it cannot start. Identification of these associations is very critical since a delay in a particular primary task will certainly progress in the entire project. The automated software allows managers to add dependencies during Gantt chart creation (Vance et al., 2014). However, when using a complex application or adding it by hand, then this crucial step must be manually incorporated.

The final step is to share and evaluate the Gantt chart plan with the involved teams. The team members review and give feedback before the project initializes. Sharing enables the manager to ensure that the plan is reasonable, workable and accurate (Vance et al., 2014). It is at this stage, before a critical project stage, that the management can plan contingency measures, organize for more resources, or revise a schedule.

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Appropriateness of Gantt Charts

Gantt charts are appropriate for use in task scheduling and monitoring, as well as communicating plans and project status. They are also necessary at the moment when the sequence of a project’s processes is known. Finally, managers can use Gantt charts when it may not be necessary to highlight the tasks that rely on a completion of former tasks (Kerzner, 2013). Thousands of companies use Gantt charts as one of their productive tools that enhance communication, track results and offer an appropriate forecast on projects. Regardless of various critics that point out certain limitations of Gantt charts, there are several advantages (Lanz, Kolb & Reichert, 2013). The first advantage is that they avoid project completion confusion. It offers a timeline for particular tasks and therefore keeps users on schedule as well as the lane. The deliverables of a particular project can be traced on a time-scale and tracked on a yearly, monthly, weekly, or daily basis.

The Gantt charts of projects also keep every team member on the same page by offering a clear visual framework of tasks that must be accomplished. The tool reduces misunderstanding, more specifically when there are highly complex tasks (Horne, 2014). From the chart, the stakeholders utilize the same information, understand the set expectations, and work according to the preferred protocols. Additionally, the Gantt charts allow the teams and stakeholders to understand relationship existing between tasks (Gido, Clements & Clements, 2014). Some activities rely on the completion of others to meet the project objectives. Therefore, the timing of each task must be kept so as to ensure an excellent flow of work, productivity and the overall realization of the project goals (Lanz, Kolb & Reichert, 2013). The tool also allows enough resource allocations since users can forecast and anticipate resources need to be shared or allocated. The more discipline the team is in following the chart, the higher the chances of working within the time, cost, and budget. Finally, the Gantt chart has an advantage of ensuring that a given project helps an organization in achieving its long-term strategy.


The importance of Gantt charts cannot be underestimated for both complex and simple projects. Field supervisors may find scheduling hectic; however, the project managers use it to create critical decisions in project management. Most companies make huge profits and remain relevant in the market due to the benefits they get from project management using Gantt charts. Gantt chart allows redistribution of workload and monitors the entire health of a project in a single view.

For complex or big enterprises, the Gantt chart software is very crucial where there are huge budgets, variant resources, and time effectiveness is required. Nevertheless, they are also beneficial in small enterprises. Regardless of where they are applied, they are significant in to support a smooth and efficient running of business operations and projects. In a general view, the Gantt chart technology has an outstanding impact on project cost tracking, duration, and the overall project performance. The charts assist managers to communicate and share project knowledge and augment processes. Also, since an extensive data or information amount may pose challenging issues to the project manager, the tool helps in successful completion of any project.

Lastly, technological advancement in the contemporary world is currently changing the use of computer-aided Gantt charts towards a cloud-based system which incorporates Google calendars. Online scheduling charts enhance sharing and printing of the project planning output. The market trend is tending towards using software-as-a-service and enabling mobile functionality. Firms currently rely on the cloud for remote connectivity and mobile integration for flexibility. For effective leadership, the managers use Gantt charts to control schedules as well as budgets. Modern project planning technology can render tools that automate the management routine processes.

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  2. Durfee, W. (2012). Project Planning and Gantt Charts. Department of Mechanical Engineering. College of Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota. Retrieved May, 12, 2011.
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  5. Horne, S. B. (2014). Identifying key success factors for the implementation of enterprise content management systems (Doctoral dissertation, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS).
  6. Kerzner, H. (2013). Project management: a systems approach to planning, scheduling, and controlling. John Wiley & Sons.
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  8. Seymour, T., & Hussein, S. (2014). The history of project management. International Journal of Management & Information Systems (Online), 18(4), 233.
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