Gantt Charts in Project Management: Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Even if you aren’t a project manager, you know that when it comes to busy teams and lots of moving parts, organization is the key to success. Additionally, you have probably also noticed that when things are visually organized, it’s much easier for everyone to stay on top of tasks and deadlines. This is when Gantt charts come into place.
What’s a Gantt Chart?
Henry Laurence Gantt (1861-1919) was a mechanical engineer, management consultant and industry advisor. He developed Gantt charts in the second decade of the 20th century as a visual tool to show scheduled and actual progress of projects (click here for more on Gantt chart history). But how do they serve us in today’s world?
According to Gantt.com, “A Gantt chart, commonly used in project management, is one of the most popular and useful ways of showing activities (tasks or events) displayed against time. On the left of the chart is a list of the activities and along the top is a suitable time scale. Each activity is represented by a bar; the position and length of the bar reflects the start date, duration and end date of the activity.
This allows you to see at a glance:
- What the various activities are
- When each activity begins and ends
- How long each activity is scheduled to last
- Where activities overlap with other activities, and by how much
- The start and end date of the whole project”
In other words, a Gantt chart is a simple way to visualize what needs to be done and what has already been completed. However, simply implementing Gantt charts does not suffice if you’re making mistakes with it.
What Are Gantt Charts’ Most Common Mistakes in Project Management?
1. Failing to have a project kickoff meeting
Kickoff meetings are when you set the tone, establish deadlines, tasks and task owners for your project. Failing to have a kickoff meeting can lead to confusion, lack of accountability and an overall delayed project. Remember that just because you have a visual aid, doesn’t mean a project manager isn’t vital.
2. Ignoring task dependencies
Task dependencies (click here for this and other key project management terms) are key as they determine when one task can start based on the previous one. If you ignore dependencies, it will only lead to chaos as the tasks won’t be completed in the right order. Additionally, a lack of understanding and constant delays will only inspire tons of frustration and confusion amongst your team.
3. Not keeping open lines of communication
Even though Gantt charts are very easy to use, you shouldn’t leave anything open for interpretation. Instead, host quick 15 minute meetings each day (but be careful because too many meetings can also be detrimental), and make sure everyone shares what they worked on the day before, what they’re working on that day and what they’ll be working on the next day.
This will open the lines for everyone to have a good understanding of the state of the project and be able to ask for help as needed.
4. Losing track of project progress
As tasks move forward and are completed, it’s important to constantly update your Gantt chart to reflect progress. If you’re using an online tool, this will happen automatically as you report progress, but it’s still important to check daily and ensure everything looks good.
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