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
To summarize, a Gantt chart shows you what has to be done (the activities) and when (the schedule).
Gantt Chart History
The first Gantt chart was devised in the mid 1890s by Karol Adamiecki, a Polish engineer who ran a steelworks in southern Poland and had become interested in management ideas and techniques.
Some 15 years after Adamiecki, Henry Gantt, an American engineer and project management consultant, devised his own version of the chart and it was this that became widely known and popular in western countries. Consequently, it was Henry Gantt whose name was to become associated with charts of this type.
Originally Gantt charts were prepared laboriously by hand; each time a project changed it was necessary to amend or redraw the chart and this limited their usefulness, continual change being a feature of most projects. Nowadays, however, with the advent of computers and project management software, Gantt charts can be created, updated and printed easily.
Today, Gantt charts are most commonly used for tracking project schedules. For this it is useful to be able to show additional information about the various tasks or phases of the project, for example how the tasks relate to each other, how far each task has progressed, what resources are being used for each task and so on.