6 Tips On The Brilliance Of Gantt Charts

I have been running a complicated scheduling project at work this week … lots of senior people with ‘challenging’ diaries having to do lots of things that are dependent upon others also completing complementary actions in a defined order before a very hard stop in May.

Yes, enough to give anyone brain ache!

The scheduling and diary management could be positively nightmarish if not approached in a systematic way!

Fortunately as an experienced Executive Assistant, a born organiser and a trained Prince2 practitioner this is just the kind of project that I find hugely enjoyable and stretching.

However I do understand that for many the first words of this blog will be making them feel light headed and panicky …. not everyone is cut our for project management but small business owners have to employ the skills at some point or another in the interests of advancing their companies goals.

And when the need arises?

You should be aware that a badly run project will end up being more expensive, won’t come in on time and is in serious danger of not being the answer to the problem that you set out to solve.

So, if your business is not big enough yet to employ someone to do this for you here is one way to make sure you are going in the direction that your business needs – I feel a Project Management series coming on!

And now back to Gantt Charts, and their brilliance!

ganttchart

The first thing I did when confronted with this particular project last week?

I started to think about a Gantt Chart.

And before you start to, you don’t need any spectacular and expensive software to put one together. Given that most companies only supply relatively expensive PM software to dedicated Project Managers I have learnt from experience that you really only need Excel and some very basic skills.

For today I am going to focus on the headline benefits but there will be some more practical ‘How To’ Blogs to follow shortly.

1. Clarity

One of the greatest benefits of a Gantt chart is the ability to boil down multiple tasks and timelines into a single document that any stakeholder can easily understand. It simply and simultaneously shows where teams are in a process while giving an overview of the ways independent elements come together.

2. Coordination

One important yet often overlooked part of Project Management is people resource management. A Gantt chart allows you to sequence events with an eye on reducing the potential for overburdening team members. As a very visual medium highlighting how different teams/ tasks intertwine they can also sometimes encourage new partnerships/ collaborations that might not have evolved under traditional task assignment systems.

3. Individual Working Styles

Whilst an overall project/ programme Gantt chart gives a big picture view it has the significant upside of allowing flexibility for the teams working on the various separate elements. Whatever their preferences of time management and working style they can plug their own work habits into the overall project schedule.Some project managers even use combinations of charts to break down projects into more manageable sets of tasks.

4. Better Collaboration

Scheduling and Time Management are one of the major benefits of Gantt charts. One thing that it particularly does is helps teams understand the overall impact of project delays  and can foster stronger collaboration.

5. Flexibility

The ability to issue new versions of charts as your project evolves lets you react to unexpected changes in scope or timeline. Changes as a project progresses are inevitable and all part of the natural evolution and offering a real time and realistic view of a project can help team members recover from setbacks and adjust to changes.

6. Efficiency

Another one of the benefits is the ability for teams members to leverage each other’s deadlines for maximum efficiency. For instance, while one team member waits on the outcome of three other tasks before starting a crucial piece of the assignment, he or she can perform other project tasks. Visualizing resource usage allows everyone to make better use of people, places, and things.

Projects, whatever the size and scope, are simply puzzles to be worked out. Any tool that helps you visualize all of the pieces of that puzzle helps you to make more focused, effective decisions about resources and timetables.

Small Seeds #3 – Distraction Lists

So, everyone likes a productivity hack don’t they? 

This is one of my absolute favourites! 

I like to think of myself as a bit of a creative …I love to write, playing with PowerPoint is just about my favourite activity to pass any amount of hours and I am a visual learner. 

All great things for my work and life in general. But, there is a but! 

It means my mind tends to wander and be easily distracted on those wanderings. 

In many ways this serves me well and is something that I love. After all it is only by having a wandering and imaginative mind that you build up a colourful and broad knowledge that feeds creative endeavours.

However sometimes it can be a problem when I have a deadline or really need to focus on one thing. Then, being distracted is just a colossal pain. 

Because, I know that – however brilliant that idea might be for a presentation or that topic would be great for a blog or that article really would be a brilliant tweet for my followers – if I move away from that thought I am likely to not come back to it after I have finished whatever I am trying to focus on at the moment. 

Enter the Distraction List! 

Write it down, add it to your list of things to come back to so you remember your brainwaves. 

The practicalities are up to your personal taste but my advice would be to pick one method and stick to it. Scrappy pieces of paper or reminders in the middle of the days notes just get lost. 

I’ve found that the best way is to have a dedicated place to put these thoughts, somewhere you can easily get some inspiration when needed! 

I’ve tried Trello, Wunderlist, One Note, emailing myself … The possibilities are endless! Just ensure you find the method that most suits the way you like to work so it isn’t a drag. 

Personally I find a pencil, yes a real one made of wood not plastic, and my favourite A5 softcover Moleskine are the best thing for me 🙂 It comes with me everywhere and I don’t know what I would do without it now. 

Looking for a high impact low effort productivity boost? Give it a try, I highly recommend it!