Guide: Gantt Chart
Within Lean Six Sigma, most improvements are done as part of projects. Projects become complicated with actions, dependencies, and multiple moving parts. This can make it difficult to keep track of project progress, timelines, and due dates. This is where Gantt charts come in useful; they provide a way of visually understanding all the elements of a project that need to be done visually and understanding what tasks are dependent on others.
Table of Contents
What is a Gantt Chart?
A Gantt chart provides a timeline of a project that visually displays when tasks start and end and when deadlines and milestones are reached. The Gantt Chart was developed my Henry Gantt in the early 20th century and is a tool that has evolved to be a staple in project management.
The key features of a Gantt Chart include:
Tasks: The chart lists all the tasks or activities required for project completion. These are often displayed on the vertical axis or in a column beside the chart.
Duration: Each task has a corresponding horizontal bar that spans a specific duration. The length of the bar reflects how long the task will take to complete.
Sequence or Dependencies: Some tasks can only start after the completion of others. These relationships are usually indicated by arrows or lines connecting the bars.
Start and End Dates: The Gantt Chart maps the entire timeline of the project from inception to completion. The first and last tasks typically mark these dates.
Why are Gantt Charts used?
Gantt charts are useful for all types of projects whether they are big or small, simple or complex and provide clear benefits that increase the success rate of projects. Such as improved communication. In projects, miscommunication can often lead to project delays and costs. A Gantt chart can be used as a tool for communication about who is responsible for doing a task and when it needs to be done, therefore improving communication.
Another reason why they are useful is that Gantts are useful for monitoring progress by providing a visual of project progress and the status of each tasks.
Gantt charts are also useful for streamlining planning; often projects are complex with a lot of moving parts and dependencies. With a well-planned Gantt chart, it is easy to see the logical order in which the task needs to be completed and to break complexity down into digestible parts.
How to create a Gantt Chart
If you have never created a Gantt chart before, it might not seem straight-forward. But we have broken dow the process into a clear step-by-step guide to help you develop your first project Gantt chart.
Step 1: Identify the tasks
Before getting started with developing the actual Gantt chart timeline, we need to create a list of all the tasks, which will comprise all the tasks and activities involved in the project. These tasks are usually smaller, individual activities broken up into project steps. This is often referred to as a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). The WBS helps to understand the scope of the project and forms the foundation of the Gantt chart.
For example, if you were doing this Gantt for a DMAIC project your process steps might be:
- Identify the problem
- Define project scope
- Create a project charter
- Identify key metrics
- Collect data
- Validate the measurement system
- Identify root causes
- Analyze data
- Validate hypotheses
- Develop potential solutions
- Implement pilot solutions
- Evaluate results
- Implement full-scale solution
- Establish control plans
- Document the process
Step 2: Set Durations
Once you have your list of tasks, the next step is to estimate how long each task till take to complete. These durations will be defined as the length of the horizontal bars on the Gantt chart.
For this, you may initially set durations for each milestone or DMAIC step and then break down the task times within those milestones.
- Define: 2 weeks
- Identify the problem: 4 Days
- Define project scope: 4 Days
- Create a project charter: 2 Days
- Measure: 3 weeks
- Analyze: 4 weeks
- Improve: 3 weeks
- Control: 2 weeks
Step 3: Define Dependencies
Dependencies are the relationships between tasks. Some tasks cannot be started until others are complete. A simple example of this is in building a house, windows cannot be installed until the walls are built. Therefore, the task of installing windows is dependent on the completion of the building wall task.
In the DMAIC-defined stage, the project charter can’t be created or completed before the problem is identified and the scope is defined.
When you do this, use lines on the Gantt chart to indicate dependencies. You should also be mindful of critical paths, which are the sequence of stages determining the minimum time needed for completion.
Step 4: Assign Resources
The next step is to assign resources to complete each task. This will be an individual or a team. this step is critical for ensuring accountability and ensuring that everyone knows what they are responsible for within the project.
Step 5: Draw the chart (if not using a template)
The final step is to plot all this information on a horizontal timeline. You can use various tools like Microsoft Project, Excel, or specialized Gantt Chart software for this purpose.
If you are planning to use Excel, we would recommend our Gantt chart template for this as it is simple to use and easy to adjust to your project needs.
Gantt Charts are more than just a project management tool; they are a complete roadmap for successful Lean Six Sigma initiatives. By laying out tasks, durations, dependencies, and resource allocations, Gantt Charts turn the complexities of DMAIC projects into manageable, visually intuitive timelines.
Whether you’re defining a problem, measuring key metrics, analyzing data, or implementing solutions, a well-crafted Gantt chart keeps everyone on the same page. It facilitates improved communication, effective planning, continuous progress monitoring, and individual accountability. Including Gantt charts in your Lean Six Sigma toolbox can significantly enhance your project outcomes and the efficiency of your continuous improvement efforts.
- Maylor, H., 2001. Beyond the Gantt chart:: Project management moving on. European management journal, 19(1), pp.92-100.
- Rebiere, O. and Rebiere, C., 2017. Mastering the Gantt Chart: Understand and use the” Gantt Project” open source software efficiently! (Vol. 1). Rebiere.
- Nurre, S.G. and Weir, J.D., 2017. Interactive Excel-based Gantt chart schedule builder. INFORMS Transactions on Education, 17(2), pp.49-57.
A: The primary purpose is to visually represent a project’s timeline, showing tasks, their durations, and dependencies.
A: Yes, Gantt charts can indicate task dependencies, often using arrows or lines to show which tasks rely on others.
A: Absolutely! There are numerous digital tools, from Microsoft Project to online platforms like Smartsheet and Asana.
A: It should be updated regularly to reflect the actual status of tasks and any changes in the project timeline.
A: No, while it’s crucial for planning, it’s also a valuable tool for monitoring progress, allocating resources, and communicating with stakeholders throughout a project’s lifecycle.