Gantt Charts: What They Are and How to Make Them

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Gantt charts are a key tool used in project management. They are bar charts that convey a project’s timeline, tasks, and team members. In this article, you’ll learn more about Gantt charts, when and why to use them, and how to create one in seven steps.

[Featured Image] A project manager stands in front of multicolored charts and discusses Gantt charts with colleagues.

Gantt charts are a key tool used in project management. They are bar charts that convey a project’s timeline, tasks, and team members. In this article, you’ll learn more about Gantt charts, when and why to use them, and how to create one in seven steps.

What is a Gantt chart?

A Gantt chart organises and visualises the tasks and statuses related to a project. It's one of the most used project management tools. In a Gantt chart, each horizontal bar represents a task, with the length corresponding to the time required to complete it. The bars are arranged on a progressive timeline, with each bar following the end of the previous bar. They are an example of the critical path method of project management. Project management tools are available to help create Gantt charts efficiently, adjust information in real time, map out project milestones, insert deliverables, and assign team members to tasks. 

Who uses Gantt charts?

Project and product managers use Gantt charts to monitor their projects, but many professionals benefit from using Gantt charts. Here are some examples of jobs and businesses that may use Gantt charts:

  • Event planners might use Gantt charts to keep track of all necessary to-dos before an event.

  • Technology companies often use Gantt charts throughout their organisations to track the progress of product launches. 

  • Marketing teams can use Gantt charts to ensure they meet a campaign's deliverables.

History of Gantt charts

Henry L. Gantt, an American mechanical engineer, developed the Gantt chart with his colleague Frederick Taylor in 1917 [1] to illustrate the production and manufacturing schedule at the Frankford Arsenal. At the time, engineers would hand draw the charts and manually revise them. Modern computers have made it possible to digitally update a Gantt diagram using Excel and other project management software programs. 


How do Gantt charts work?

Project managers use Gantt charts to brainstorm tasks, pinpoint realistic timelines, or meet deadlines on commitments and events. Gantt charts visualise how much time or resources are needed to complete the project and communicate to stakeholders the timeline and how changes to a project scope would affect it. They also visualise and identify dependencies or tasks that can only start after completing a previous task. Project managers also need Gantt charts to determine a project’s quickest path to completion.  

Benefits of Gantt charts

Gantt charts are valuable tools because they help project managers brainstorm tasks, timelines, and dependencies. By outlining dependencies, project managers can also identify risks that could impact a project. Gantt charts also make it easier to maintain momentum and morale by breaking down projects into manageable tasks or sections. This helps keep a project on track and identify and manage any risks. 

How to make a Gantt chart in 7 steps

The following step-by-step guide outlines what you need to create a Gantt chart and manage your project successfully. 

1. Outline the project’s scope.

Before creating a Gantt chart, you will need important pieces of information. Since they track a project’s schedule and progress, gathering key dates and resources and outlining key tasks will help set you up for success. You can make a Gantt chart when you have a clear project scope and have finalised and approved the project charter with stakeholders.

2. Determine the tasks to complete the project.

With your team, you can use the project charter to identify a comprehensive list of tasks and the order in which they should be completed. Elements from the project charter to consider include:

  • Goals

  • Business case 

  • Key deliverables

  • Team 

  • Resources

  • Budget

  • Schedule

  • Risks

  • Objectives and key results (OKRs)

  • Approvals 

Tip: Gantt chart example templates found online can provide a solid foundation for your project and be customised to suit your project plan.



3. Determine task dependencies. 

Research and talk with stakeholders to help you determine which tasks have the greatest priority and require the completion of other tasks on the timeline before they can begin. Once you define dependencies, you have the pieces needed to outline and visualise the project timeline accurately.

4. Organise the task order.

With the tasks outlined and dependencies determined, you can now organise them chronologically. Estimate the time needed to complete each task to create a schedule for the Gantt chart. To help with this step, you can consult subject matter experts or communicate with the stakeholders. 

5. Add supporting information (budget, resources, etc.).

To make the Gantt chart as accurate as possible, include details such as team members’ availability and estimated shipping and delivery times. Use the chart to track resources and deadlines to set yourself up for success in meeting milestones.

6. Assign the tasks.

The next step is to discuss team members' availability and develop a realistic timeline for the project’s goals. Then, assign tasks to team members who are fit for the job and can communicate any roadblocks. 

7. Monitor progress.

The Gantt chart is a living document that you will likely need to update throughout the project's progress. The project manager monitors task progress and adjusts the Gantt chart accordingly. Monitoring progress maintains visibility on the original timetable, ensures tasks stay on track, helps communication with stakeholders, and offers the opportunity to learn valuable lessons for the next project.

Gantt chart best practices and key takeaways

There are a few best practices for using Gantt charts. Remember to keep it organised, consider your team when creating a schedule, and include all relevant information that can impact a project timeline.

Keep it organised with labels and colours.

Gantt charts should include tasks, assigned team members, key milestones, and estimated deadlines. To help visualise project tasks, use colour to organise their statuses. 

Create the schedule.

Communicate with your team members about their workload and availability to create a realistic schedule. Be sure to assign the tasks to the right team member based on their role, strengths, motivation, and availability.

Be detailed. 

For the Gantt diagram, you should label tasks with due dates and detailed descriptions, including details such as budget and resources that can impact the project timeline and progress. Compare assignments to see if any team member is overloaded and adjust accordingly. 

Next steps

Consider the Google Project Management Professional Certificate if you’re ready to start building your project management skills. It covers various topics related to project management, including Gantt charts, and provides templates and resources. 

Article sources

  1. The Engines of Our Ingenuity. “No. 2753: Henry Gantt,” Accessed June 7, 2024.

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