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Common Project Management Charts

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 5/19/2011

This article lists and describes some of the common charts used in project management. Learn about what charts can help you to plan your projects by reading further.

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    There are many useful tools for project management. One of the most useful tools is the chart. There are several different types of charts for project management, and all are intended to help you to visualize the project. You may have already heard of the Gantt Chart or the PERT Chart, but have you heard of the process control chart? How about the Network Diagram or the Pareto Chart? Read on to find out what the most common charts used in project management are, and when they should be used for your project planning success.

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    The Gantt Chart

    picture The Gantt chart is often hailed as being the project management staple. This chart for project management is a useful tool for scheduling your project. Gantt charts depict task dependencies, start times and stop times for project tasks, and provide a visual frame of reference for everyone on the project team. Gantt charts help project managers to plan activities, work out a critical path, and communicate activities with team members. They work best on smaller projects, when projects are large or complex, their usefulness wanes due to the limitations of the Gantt chart.

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    The PERT Chart

    picture Another project management chart you are likely to have heard of before is the PERT chart. The PERT chart, also sometimes known as a network diagram, depicts more complex projects and the relationships between activities. A PERT chart, unlike a Gantt chart, can depict activities that are parallel, activities that must follow one another, and complex task dependencies. This chart can help your team to visualize not only the whole project, but a part of the project you are managing that is particularly complex.

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    The Work Breakdown Structure

    picture Another type of chart is the work breakdown structure (WBS). The WBS depicts the hierarchy of tasks that comprise a project. To create a work breakdown structure you must first decompose your project into the component tasks. Next, begin at the top with the project name. Each item of the next level will be the tasks involved in the project (or milestones). The levels under that will contain subtasks and work items. Work items are the smallest, completable actions that will move the project towards completion. The WBS is a helpful tool for you to use in planning your project, because it allows you to visualize the component parts and how they relate before they are entered into your project management software.

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    Pareto Chart

    Pareto charts are most often used with Six Sigma methodologies, but they can be useful in any aspect of project management. Easily created in MS Excel, a Pareto chart can help you to visualize the quality analysis aspects of your products and processes. A Pareto chart generally has percentages running along the left-hand side, and the analyzed products running along the bottom.

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    Process Control Chart

    A process control chart depicts variations in data that can be found within a given processpicture . Most often, these charts are utilized in process management and in Six Sigma for monitoring quality. The process control chart has specification limits that have been calculated from the data collected. The points on the chart represent data measurements of quality taken from a process at different times. The center line represents the process characteristic mean. The upper and lower control limits depict thresholds that means that the process data corresponding with that figure is unlikely. This can be helpful when you are trying to improve quality on a process or product.

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    Cause and Effect Charts

    picture The cause and effect chart is a result of cause and effect analysis performed on a project event. This diagram, also known as an Ishikawa diagram or a fishbone diagram is a useful tool for visualizing the various causes surrounding a particular event. Causes are categorized and are often the products of long brainstorming sessions.

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    Stakeholder Analysis Matrix

    The stakeholder analysis matrix is a useful tool when you want to determine who has interest and influence in a project you are managing. The matrix provides a visual description of the stakeholders involved - all of them - and their level of involvement with the project. If there is a change, or if something goes wrong, your stakeholder analysis matrix will be the backbone of the risk management plan.

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    The Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RACI)

    picture The responsibility assignment matrix (also known as RACI) can be a very useful tool in depicting who is participating in any task or deliverable during the lifecycle of a project. This project management chart should be constructed once you have created your work breakdown structure and your organizational breakdown structure. Along the left-hand side, you will have the names of the various milestones, deliverables, and tasks. Along the top will be team members' and stakeholders' names. You will enter in one of the following letters - "R" for responsible, "A" for accountable, "C" for consulted or "I" for informed depending on what role each person plays in that particular project milestone, deliverable, or task.

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    While this is by no means an exhaustive list of project management charts that you might encounter, it is a list of some of the most common charts that can be found in project management.