Guide to understanding Gantt charts

What is a Gantt chart?

A Gantt chart is a visual project management tool that shows tasks, activities, or events across a specific timeframe. Gantt charts have a grid-based format, with a list of tasks on the y-axis and a timeline on the x-axis.

On a Gantt chart, tasks are represented by bars of varying positions and lengths. This format helps you see any task's start date, end date, and duration—all at a glance. You can also see where tasks overlap or conflict, and you can use color-coding to assign tasks to certain team members or highlight priority tasks.

Gantt charts are an excellent tool for project planning and responsibility allocation. They help you see the bigger picture of your project, including time estimates and deadlines for each step, and they show you the order in which tasks must be completed.

Examples of when to use a Gantt chart

Gantt charts are useful for planning and scheduling all types of projects. They make it easy to monitor progress and hold team members accountable for their contributions. Some common use cases for Gantt charts include:

Planning multi-stage projects with many contributors

When planning and monitoring large projects with many sub-tasks, milestones, deadlines, and contributors, Gantt charts can help you stay on top of everything. A Gantt chart lets you look at the overall project timeline, with tasks visually represented and responsibilities allocated to various team members using labels or color-coding.

Some examples of using Gantt charts for multi-stage projects include:

  • Digital ad campaign creation and monitoring
  • Construction projects where a general contractor is managing multiple subcontractors

Presenting progress updates

Gantt charts provide a visual aid to report and present a project's progress. With a Gantt chart available for reference, you can highlight which tasks have been completed, which are currently in progress, and which will be completed in the future.

For example, consultants and agencies could use a Gantt chart during project progress presentations for external clients.

Communicating project milestones and roadblocks

Not only do Gantt charts keep you on track with your projects' timelines, but they also facilitate communication about project milestones and roadblocks. With a clear view of each task, relevant deadlines, and key contributors, you can celebrate your wins and easily identify when certain tasks or contributors may be causing the project to stall.

For example, large-scale product development projects with stakeholders across multiple different departments could use a Gantt chart to track project milestones and roadblocks.

Benefits of Gantt charts

Gantt charts are a powerful project planning and monitoring tool. They help you understand project timelines, task allocation, and more. Key benefits of Gantt charts include:

Documenting workflows

When you have projects with multiple steps or participants, Gantt charts provide an excellent framework for recording workflows and information about the average duration for different projects and tasks. It's an intuitive and user-friendly format that helps make recurring projects more efficient and easier to replicate.

Establishing deadlines

Gantt charts provide a concrete, visual reference for project timelines and task deadlines. At a glance, you can easily see the order in which tasks must be completed and who is responsible for what. This visualization makes expectations clear for all involved and promotes team members' accountability.

Assigning responsibilities

When your project has multiple contributors, it helps to have a reference for who has ownership over which tasks. By adding color-coding or labels to your Gantt chart, you can easily assign tasks and responsibilities to various team members.

Eliminating siloing and disengagement

With a large team working together on one project, it can be hard to keep everyone up-to-date on the project's status. With a shared Gantt chart, project information is shared, not siloed. Everyone involved can clearly see upcoming deadlines and next steps, and project managers can keep contributors engaged—even when they're not actively involved in the current stage.

How to make a Gantt chart

Create a Gantt chart by following these steps:

  1. Assess the project's scope. Create a complete list of tasks or stages required in the project. You may want to organize your list by larger tasks and smaller sub-tasks.
  2. Assign start dates and deadlines to each task. You can give larger tasks a broader time range and get more specific with sub-tasks. If you have one main, final deadline for the whole project, it is sometimes helpful to start there and work backward.
  3. Add tasks to your Gantt chart. Make sure each task spans the correct number of days, weeks, or months, with start dates and deadlines clearly marked.
  4. Confirm with contributors and stakeholders. Be sure all steps are accounted for, and discuss deadlines, so expectations are clear. Make adjustments to your Gantt chart as needed.
  5. Allocate tasks to team members. Once all steps are accounted for and deadlines are acceptable, assign tasks to appropriate team members and make sure they understand their roles.
  6. Monitor and update as needed. Refer to your Gantt chart throughout the project, and make additions and updates when necessary.

Why use MindManager to make Gantt charts

Gantt charts help keep your projects on track and your team members engaged. A Gantt chart software like MindManager makes project planning and monitoring easier than ever before. Some of MindManager's key features and benefits include:

  • User-friendly, intuitive interface
  • Extensive image library—over 700 topic images, icons, and symbols to add to your Gantt charts
  • Convenient file storage, retrieval, and sharing
  • Powerful integrations with file storage apps like Box and OneDrive
  • Google Docs integration via Zapier
  • Numerous templates, tools, and features to facilitate brainstorming and strategic planning
  • Google Chrome extension—MindManager Snap—to easily collect and import text, links, and images from the web

Professionals use MindManager to boost their teams' productivity, clarify plans and expectations, and develop seamless process flows. Improve communication and expand your teaming capabilities with MindManager.

Gantt chart templates

MindManager comes pre-installed with many Gantt chart templates. To use these templates:

  1. Open MindManager
  2. Click NEW in the navigation menu
  3. Select the template you want to use
  4. A preview screen will appear - check to see if you'd like to use your selected template
  5. Select 'Create Map'
  6. Customize the template for your specific project
Gantt chart templates

Gantt chart FAQS

What is a Gantt chart in project management?

A Gantt chart is a project planning tool to illustrate project timelines visually. Gantt charts display various project tasks chronologically, with start dates, deadlines, and estimated durations all clearly shown for easy reference.

How do you read a Gantt chart?

To read a Gantt chart, find the project tasks listed along the y-axis and the timeline along the x-axis. Each task will have a start date, duration, and end date marked. Color-coding may indicate who is responsible for each task.

What are some Gantt chart alternatives?

Gantt charts are ideal for time-sensitive projects involving multiple stakeholders or contributors. Some suitable Gantt chart alternatives include Kanban boards and timeline charts.

What is the difference between a PERT chart vs a Gantt chart?

The main difference between a PERT chart and a Gantt chart is that PERT charts use a flowchart format, and Gantt charts show tasks using a bar-style chart and timeline. Both styles can be used for project planning.

Keep your projects on track with a Gantt chart

Gantt charts are a powerful project management tool for time-sensitive workflows. Professionals across various industries and roles use Gantt charts to lay out the tasks within a project plan, estimate timelines and allocate responsibilities to different contributors.

Gantt charts help ensure all project participants understand how their role fits into the overall project plan.

Visualize more with MindManager

Streamline your project planning while taking your team's productivity to the next level with features like premade templates, priority markers, filters, and a large library of images and icons. To make your first Gantt chart, try MindManager today.

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