A Gantt chart is a highly effective project management tool when used wisely.

4 Reasons to Use a Gantt Chart as a Project Management Tool

Time Management

A Gantt chart helps you manage large, complex projects that involve people, time, resources and money. See how it facilitates communication and more.

A large project can be complex to manage, as it involves people, time, resources and money. A Gantt chart, a horizontal bar chart that provides an illustration of a project schedule, is a commonly used tool to manage the components of a project and eliminate or reduce challenges. According to the Villanova University, several of the major challenges encountered when managing corporate projects are undefined goals, changes in scope, a lack of accountability, impossible deadlines, inadequate resources, poor communication and missing stakeholder engagement.

1. Undefined or Unclear Goals

Goals that are too big and too general can wreak havoc on a project. How do you know you’re making sufficient progress if you don’t know precisely what the end goals are? When upper management has shifting or unclear goals, the project team can’t know exactly what they need to do to achieve those goals and that may result in busy work.

2. Changes in Scope

A change in scope can cause a project to mushroom or cause work done to be rendered useless. When the project scope enlarges over time, the project can become unwieldy unless the original scope time line is adhered to and the new scope is an add-on. A lack of accountability can lead to stalled projects, missed deliverables, blame and recrimination.

3. Impossible Deadlines

Unrealistic deadlines can lead to low productivity and poor morale. When team members must work many overtime hours weekly to meet deadlines, their input and contributions may not seem to be valued. Inadequate resources have a similar effect. Having insufficient resources to accomplish tasks can lower morale because the team feels unsupported. It can also lower productivity because it takes so much time and effort to procure the resources needed to complete the designated tasks.

4. Poor Communication

A common catastrophe in most arenas, poor communication results in missed deadlines, unclear expectations and inefficient actions. In addition, missing stakeholder engagement can cause a project to stall. According to the Project Management Institute, companies with strong, clear and effective communication, which includes ongoing stakeholder engagement, met their goals in 80 percent of their projects while those with poor communication had a 52 percent success rate. Furthermore, on-budget performance was achieved 76 percent of the time vs. 48 percent for the poor communicators.

The Gantt Chart vs. Pain Points

A Gantt chart can help prevent and resolve all these issues. Once constructed, it becomes a living tool, which means that it’s regularly reviewed and updated to indicate progress, to make schedule adjustments and to re-allocate any project resources. The bar chart format allows easy comparison through the use of different lines and colors. Critical tasks are typically highlighted to help team members recognize their importance. This simplistic chart is therefore an easy-to-understand visual tool.

This chart format provides clarity based on stated objectives; any goal misalignment can be clearly identified and addressed from the outset. This process allows clear identification of what the team needs to do and, consequently, what resources are needed to properly execute the task, making sure that sufficient resources are identified and requested in advance. In addition, the weekly chart updates clearly show the progress towards objectives and pinpoints problem areas that need addressing. Thus, using and sharing this chart with the team can help create clear communication.

The Gantt chart also makes communication more effective because it encourages continued engagement by the management team that approved the project. Management can’t claim a lack of awareness of the progress and objectives — the project manager simply needs to use the chart in his or her written and oral communication with management. Because of this, the chart helps clearly define any changes in scope. The project manager can use the chart to visibly illustrate to management how changes in scope will impact the project in terms of time lines, resources and deliverables, which continually drives the focus and commitment.

Impossible deadlines can be avoided when all team members participate in the creation of this chart. In creating this project management tool, team members weigh in on all aspects of the project. Based on this interaction and feedback, the project manager can adjust the deadlines to be aggressive, yet achievable. In addition, by involving team members in the creation of the chart, each member clearly knows what is expected (activities), when it is expected (time line) and how it is expected (deliverables). Thus, all involved have clear accountability for specific tasks and objectives and for engaging with others as needed. The chart then helps to track this over the entire project, thus maintaining accountability through project completion.

The Gantt chart is a thoroughly detailed, yet simple, illustration of a project that facilitates communication and helps establish the timely and on-budget completion of your projects. It will help you more effectively manage up to your senior management and manage down to your team members.

Tiffany C. Wright
Tiffany C. Wright

Tiffany C. Wright is the author of The Funding Is Out There!, Access the Cash You Need to Impact Your Business and Solving the Capital Equation: Financing Solutions for Small Businesses. She is the founder of The Resourceful CEO, which helps owners of small/medium-sized businesses prepare their businesses for sale. Tiffany has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, sits on non-profit boards and serves as a business mentor with the Cherie Blair Foundation.