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Gantt Charts and Milestone Schedules

written by: johnsinit • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 7/31/2010

Without Gantt charts and milestone schedules, project management as we know it today might not exist. A mechanical engineer named Henry Gantt came up with the charts in the early 1900s, ushering in the tradition of monitoring and measuring progress in work projects.

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    Introduction - What is a Gantt Chart?

    Gantt Chart Sample Gantt charts and milestone schedules are staples of modern project management techniques. A Gantt chart is a bar chart illustrating the schedule of a work project. It shows the dates of the start and finish of the project as well as the milestones along the way.

    Some Gantt charts show the dependency between an activity and the previous activities, which is referred to as the precedence network. The milestones are a way to show the breakdown of the work of a project.

    Milestones, as recorded on Gantt charts are used as checkpoints to determine how well a project is progressing. They signify how far along work on a project has come, and whether a project is headed in the right direction. A milestone might be something that marks the end of a phase of work, such as a deliverable product or document. Or it might be the completion of a set of calculations, or the results of an evaluation of a product’s functionality or safety.

    Though Gantt charts and milestone schedules are considered commonplace, they were nothing short of a revolution when they were first introduced by Henry Gantt in the 1910s. Today there is even a Henry Laurence Gantt Medal awarded for achievements in management and community service.

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    Who Was Henry Gantt?

    Henry Laurence Gantt lived from 1861 to 1919. He was an American management consultant and mechanical engineer. The charts that HenrY Lawrence Gantt bear his name have been used in the completion of major American infrastructure projects like the Hoover Dam and the American interstate highway system. A century after their introduction, they are still used in project management, although one of the primary modern versions is now commonly called a Program Evaluation and Review Technique, or PERT.

    Gantt’s legacy included the use of scientific analysis of all aspects of ongoing projects in order to minimize accidents and leave as little as possible to chance. He also popularized the system of linking managers’ bonuses to their ability to teach their employees to improve their performance. And he also had a strong belief that businesses have obligations to improve the society in which they participate.

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    How are Gantt Charts Used?

    Gantt charts show a current schedule status using shadings that show what percentage of a task is complete, along with a vertical line representing the current day. In the field of information technology, Gantt charts and milestone schedules are used to depict data collected.

    Gantt created many types of charts, including charts that foremen could use to quickly know if production was on, ahead of, or behind schedule. Project management today continues to use similar systems. His charts had representations of each worker’s record, showing what each worker was assigned and completed, and representations of each day’s balance of work showing the amount of work assigned and the amount actually completed. These are still underlying fundamentals of project management.

    Gantt charts and milestone schedules are ingrained parts of work culture, and have been since the latter part of the modern industrial revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    Without the two bedrock processes of using Gantt charts and milestone schedules, modern workplaces would most likely be fundamentally different.

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