A Gantt chart is an illustrated bar chart that defines the tasks and time lines for a project. This style of chart was first created around 1917 by Henry Laurence Gantt. He was a mechanical engineer who understood the importance of task management within scientific management theory. Gantt established the fundamental principles for effectively managing the milestones of a project. He used this newly defined process to track his shipbuilding projects during World War I.
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The Gantt chart has played a significant role in managing projects over the last century. This chart provides managers with a tool that highlights the tasks that are necessary to complete a project. Each task has an estimated timeline to completion. The manager can use this estimate to gauge the progress of a project. He can also proactively monitor the effectiveness of employees in completing their required tasks.
A project plan is a detailed organisation of specific tasks and milestones that are required to complete a given project. Typically these milestones have dependencies on each other, which make the project management more complex. A Gantt chart provides a visual image of the critical path for a project plan. This critical path provides a quick view of the dependencies within an entire project plan. This helps project managers focus on the most important tasks that could delay a project's completion.
The Gantt chart should be used as a proactive tool for managing the progress of a project plan. If used effectively, this chart can provide sufficient warning of project slippage. The project manager is responsible for communicating the risks and issues that are highlighted within a Gantt chart. This tool can help remove potential bottlenecks in resources, products or policies that may be impeding the delivery of a specific milestone. By having an illustrated communication device, it is easier to explain the issues that face a project at a specific time.
There are several criticisms to the Gantt chart approach for project management. These are primarily around the inability to know critical details on projects, including total cost outlays and contract resource dependencies. The Gantt chart does not provide this “out of the box,” but it can easily be modified to include some of these critical elements. This chart is a graphical picture of the project tasks and what it takes to finish the project. These tasks can be defined at the level of specificity that is necessary to manage risk of a project. It is up to the project manager to determine the level of detail that is required to adequately manage the risk for a particular project.
The Gantt chart is only one tool in the project manager’s “toolbox.” It should not be considered the panacea for all project management. An effective project manager is responsible for managing resources, time and scope of an entire project. This management requires a significant focus and oversight of risks and issues. The Gantt chart is an excellent communication tool that defines where a project currently stands, based on the plan. This tool should be used in conjunction with other proven techniques, including resource loading, risk management, issue management and earned value management. There are several fully functional project management approaches to managing projects. Most of them always point to the Gantt chart as a fundamental tool for depicting the plan for a project.
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