A Gantt chart illustrates a project schedule, breaking down tasks into parallel project schedules. These timelines are displayed as horizontal bars, with a vertical line labeled “today” passing down through all of them.
While Gantt charts may seem at first like a glorified day planner, they’ve been adapted into modern software and office culture to having new features, such as:
• Linked processes, for when task B depends on task A.
• Assigning names or teams to tasks.
• How tasks group, overlap, or co-depend.
• The progress toward each task or goal represented similar to a software app’s progress bar.
• Personnel availability.
Gantt charts are typically supported in most project management software applications. There are also extensions of office tools, such as Excel, and web interfaces that allow the creation of online, real-time, shareable Gantt charts. Gantt charts have found their way into business administration textbooks and courses.
The name comes from Henry Gantt (1961-1919), industrial management consultant and engineer, who founded much of what we think of today as managerial science. While Gantt worked in America, his chart design soon spread to gain international usage around the turn of the 20th century and WWI. Even before desktop computers were commonplace, some offices drew up daily Gantt charts by hand or illustrated crude ones on the office whiteboard.
Today, Gantt charts have become one of the most widely used management tools for project scheduling and project control. The facility of Gantt charts is that they lay out so much information in such an easy-to-digest format so that even a novice can understand one right away. Like many office data representation tools, they shouldn’t be the entire method of project management, but they are an important group communication tool.