An effective tool for a project manager to communicate activity or task schedules in a project is the Gantt chart. The chart is extremely crucial in project management since it enables the project manager to comprehend the direction of the tasks in the project. Hence, through the use of such a chart, people who do not have managerial skills can also understand the flow of the project and thereby analyze the progress of the project.
In the beginning of the twentieth century, a mechanical engineer born in 1861 in the United States, Henry Laurence Gantt created the concept of the Gantt chart. Henry Gantt, who was also an industrial consultant by profession, died in 1919 leaving behind him an indisputable heritage in the arena of project planning for all kinds of projects, small or big. The chart is used today not only in small organizations but also in large-scale projects like the construction of Hoover dam where the chart was used during the project planning and project scheduling stages.
The project manager must understand the construction of the chart to effectively utilize it for his project. The rows in the basic Gantt Charts represent various activities or tasks and the columns represent time. Hence, if one has to check time of a particular task, one must check the horizontal bar against the row. The start of the bar indicates the date of commencement of the task while the end of the bar indicates the date of conclusion of the task. Various types of bars may be used in the charts depending upon the nature of the project and desire of the user. For instance, a color-coded graph may be used to indicate progress of the corresponding task or gradually darkening bars may be used with an empty bar indicating that no work has been done with the gradual darkening indicating the progress of the task.
The more technical the charts, the more complex they become. Such technical charts may include details of the person assigned to the task allowing the project manager to evaluate performance of his team members. Charts used for long projects usually involve breaking down of the long tasks into smaller and easier sub-tasks which may further be broken down, if need be. It has been observed that the complex charts may also end up exhibiting complex dependencies, if required.
The pictorial representation of the Gantt chart has made it unquestionably functional and important for a project manager. The visual representation enables the project manager and his team to have a high-end view of the overall project and hence help them to estimate a realistic estimate of the project duration. Having drawn all the required tasks for completion of the project in the Gantt chart, depending upon their requisites, the manager may reschedule or rearrange various tasks. To some extent, the chart may even give an idea about the project manager's future predictions to enable important decisions and identification of solutions beforehand.