What Is a Gantt Chart?

by Tanisha Coffey - Updated September 26, 2017

This century’s business professionals often believe that today’s business operations are more complex than those at the beginning of the 20th century. And although today’s scope for business operation may often be wider, business operations of yesteryear were also complex. That’s why the mark Henry L. Gantt made on history with the Gantt chart hasn’t faded over the years.

History

In 1920, a management consultant named Henry L. Gantt created what was considered a revolutionary business management tool and what is considered an ingenious business tool today: the Gantt chart. Gantt originally created the charting system to create a visual plan for constructing ships. However, others quickly realized the utility of Gantt’s charting system and began using it for other projects. The U.S. interstate highway system and the Hoover Dam were visualized via a Gantt chat before construction began on those massive projects.

Function

A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart that shows the duration of a project's schedule. Gantt charts are used for organizing goals over time. The charts are designed to show the benchmarks that must be met in order to reach an overall goal in a specific period. In addition to providing a visual of the overall goal and the tasks required to reach it, Gantt charts are often used to clearly show where accountability for reaching the various benchmarks lies.

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Features

Though the appearance of each Gantt chart differs, the overall format for a Gantt chart is the same. To create a Gantt chart, all of the tasks required for the goal should be listed in a column on the left. The list should be linear, beginning with the first major action and ending with the last. Next, the time (by days, weeks and months) is listed in a row across the top. Finally, the required actions for each task are listed in a row below the time during which it should be completed. The start and target completion dates are marked, as well as who is responsible for each task on the chart.

The Facts

Gantt charts are so popular--for use in business industries in particular, but also for personal use--that several software packages are available to assist with creating them. There are several free or fee-based options for Gantt chart design software or Gantt chart templates.

Benefits

The time invested in creating a thorough Gantt chart often provides a significant return on investment for business owners. That’s because by planning thoroughly and establishing accountability, all parties involved know precisely what is expected of them and when they're required to meet those expectations. Therefore, the logistics of executing a plan run much smoother than plans that aren't implemented via Gantt charts--which means less time and fewer resources are wasted.

Expert Insight

Though Gantt charts are often used by large corporations, they are useful tools that any business owner or organizational leader--from the solo entrepreneur services provider to the executive director of a nonprofit--can use to implement a major undertaking. For instance, a “big picture” Gantt chart as well as task-specific secondary Gantt charts can be used when executing strategies and tactics of a business or marketing plan, launching a new product or service, or maintaining organizational stability during major human resources changes.

About the Author

Tanisha Coffey, a MBA graduate and certified advertising copywriter, is an author and entrepreneur who provides strategic marketing consulting, professional copy-writing and author services through her firm Scribe, Etc. When she’s not working on client projects, Coffey writes self-help books for entrepreneurs, children’s stories and television and movie scripts.

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