A life committed to learning.

Useless Gantt chart

Yeah, it’s true. I’m in a process of leaning and relearning. Fortunately I have the time to think about the usefulness of things we use in software development. 🙂

This week I came across the question:

“For what are Gantt charts useful?”

And because we live in knowledge the wisdom of the crowds era, I decided to throw an message in LinkedIn’s IT Project Manager group.

Let me start to quote my self in that question:

Are gantt charts useful for software projects?

Software projects are complex not only because the technology but mainly because the human behaviour. Humans collaborate to create solutions for complex problems, are Gantt charts useful to model human behaviour and collaboration?

It seems to me that Gantt charts are well suited for very predictive projects or production lines with machines, and software projects are everything but predictive. What is the point of using a technique that assumes a predictive future in a environment in constant change?

As far as I know, Henry Gantt worked with Frederick Taylor and I assume they had the same way of thinking. Now, if Taylor is a Theory X manager what’s the point to use their tools when you are a theory Y manager? Does it make any sense to use gantt charts to manager projects, specially SW projects?

Additionally, I heard from someone that the first time Henry Gantt introduced what we today know as Gantt charts never used the word projects, mainly because those charts were used to manage assembly and production lines… why are we using Gantt charts to manage the complexity of projects?

I received two answers, till now. One from Maryann Snider, PMP and other from William W. (Woody) Williams in the discussion.

These answers led me to think again in the usefulness of Gantt charts. My current opinion about Gantt charts is (as seen in LinkedIn discussion):

Ok, so a Gantt chart is only a communication chart, right? We can think of it as a tool for visual management if the stakeholders are educated in that way, I guess.

I understand that Gantt charts can be used to show critical path/s calculated with CPM (Critical Path Method).A lot of more tools and techniques exists to assist us in creating a tentative schedule, like the critical chain method as William mentioned. But at the end, a Gantt chart is only a tool for communication, right?

IMHO, there’s a risk with Gantt charts

PMI, for instance, as well as Agile Manifesto, promote face-to-face communication. The heavy use of Gantt charts can be seen as a risk when they start to flow, more than desired, through email within your organization.It’s not only a question of everyone seeing different versions of a project, it’s also a question about the wrong message your organization can be passing to stakeholders: email-communication culture is Ok.

I think we’re loosing sight of what its important in projects, the People. So, the use of Gantt charts for communication of project status, progress, etc should be revisited, IMHO. Moreover, I think that a “Go see” culture is the most effective way to access progress.

I’m not against the use of gantt charts in any way. I just have to believe in their utility before using them.

And you, how do you feel about the uselfulness of Gantt charts?



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3 thoughts on “Useless Gantt chart
  1. Rui Seabra

    I think they're useful if the project managers don't think of the end date as a be-all-end-all thing, and if they're part of a web application.

    The first issue is because most project managers worry about finishing the project in time and with as few resources as possible. What usually happens is that as things are delayed in between, the time for doing the rest becomes shorter and shorter, driving everyone insane and angry because there's not time to do things propersly.

    The second issue is simply because it avoids people having different versions of the project's gantt graphic. It really causes miscommunication.

  2. Dina

    I'm waiting to be 'accepted' into the LinkedIn group, and just posted a comment on Gantthead.


    I've also had a difficult time with the traditional gantt chart and software project management. I didn't like being held to a single point estimate and found the gantt chart very hard to work with as we got deep into the project and things got complicated. I found LiquidPlanner (they actually found me) and I've found their application was the solution to all of the problems I was having.

    One of my favorite books is by Steve McConnell – Software Estimation, Demystifying the Black Art. After reading this book I couldn't imagine making software/web task work estimates in anything but ranges. Of course, clients and/or upper management don't always buy into it, but I do it when I can.


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