What is a Gantt Chart?

If you are not a project manager expert, you may ask yourself: what is a Gantt Chart?
A Gantt Chart is a technique used in project management for planning activities and tracking project schedules, being the most useful way to display tasks and activities against time.

Gantt Chart definition in simple worlds: a project chart that tells you what needs to be done and when.

On the left side of the chart is the list of tasks and activities, while on the right is the timeline. Each activity is displayed on the timeline by a bar that represents the duration of that activity.

What is a Gantt Chart

The Gantt Chart is offering answers to basic and important questions like:

  • What needs to be done?
  • When does a task start and when is it scheduled to be completed?
  • When does the project start and when is it scheduled to be completed?
  • Which activities overlap and what are the connections between tasks?
  • Who’s the person responsible for a task?

Brief history of Gantt Charts

Karol Adamiecki, a polish engineer, economist and management researcher is the person who in mid 1890s invented a diagram which he later called “harmonogram” (something similar to the actual Gantt Chart). Adamiecki had published his works in Polish and Russian, languages little known in the English-speaking world (which limited both its adoption and recognition of his authorship).
In the meantime though, Henry Laurence Gantt, an american engineer and american consultant has been popularized in the west a similar method (publishing articles on it in 1910 and 1915). Therefore Henry Gantt is considered the inventor of Gantt Chart (hence the name).

Henry Gantt and Karol Adamiecki

Henry Gantt and Karol Adamiecki

The first major application of Gantt charts was by the United States during World War I, in 1917, when General William Crozier retained Gantt as a consultant on production, first at the Frankford Arsenal (a former US ammunition plant), and then, immediately after the declaration of war, in the Ordnance Department at Washington.

In the beginning, Gantt Charts were prepared by hand and they had to be redrawn each time the project changed.
Starting with 1980s, the personal computers allowed the creation of more complex Gantt charts (and additional features have been added), while addressing one of the biggest problems: the continual changes that led to redrawing the chart every single time they occurred.

After the explosion of the Internet, the online Gantt Chart became a regular feature of web-based applications and project management software.

Interesting facts: “Gantt” is an unusual name and there are many misspelled alternatives of this uncommon word, most of them generated by non-english speakers or people who only heard the word: “gannt chart”, “ghant chart”, “gaant chart”, “gnatt chart”, “ghantt chart”, “ganntt chart”, “ghannt chart”, “gantchart” or even “gaunt chart”.

Why are Gantt Charts useful?

The fact that Gantt Charts are so popular in today’s project management is not accidental. There are four important uses of these charts.

  1. Planning and scheduling your projects – who’s going to do what, when do we start, how much time it will take to complete the job.
  2. Better visualization and explanation of your project – its intuitive design is almost self-explanatory, and every person involved in the project will understand what’s going on with no training whatsoever.
  3. Monitoring the project – this is one of the most complex and somehow difficult part of Gantt Charts (because it requires constant attention and schedule adjustments), that allows you to see if your project is on schedule or not. There’s no better tool out there for monitoring project progress.
  4. Make project adjustments – the initial plan will probably need many adjustments, and the Gantt Chart excels in allowing you to make these adjustments easily.