You’ve spent hours adding all the tasks, the time estimates, the people and resources needed to complete the project on time and within budget. You’ve created a Gantt chart masterpiece good enough to frame, and the client is going to be suitably impressed.

As a visual aid, Gantt charts seem great for outlining a project’s tasks, milestones, resources and dependencies—and they were when they were first introduced by Henry Gantt between 1910 and 1915. But we live in a very different world now, one that is fast-paced and dominated by smaller businesses with more agile project management needs.

The Waterfall Model of Project Management

Gantt charts are largely based on the waterfall model of project management (PM), with origins in the construction and manufacturing industries, where work flows through logical phases and ‘design changes become prohibitively expensive much sooner in the development process’.

You can’t build the walls of a building until the foundations are complete. You can’t add a roof to the building until the walls are built, and you can’t very well furnish the interior until the electrics and plumbing are complete. All-in-all, each phase of the project is dependent upon the phase before being completed first. And on huge projects, such project management planning is essential.

But most small businesses or enterprises aren’t building bridges or involved in large construction projects—so why oh why are we still using such an outdated model to tackle project management?

Well, let’s be honest here:

  • Gantt charts look great when everything is nicely laid out and has its place.
  • They communicate a good overall view of the key areas of a project.
  • They show a level of professionalism to clients, that you’ve got a handle on what’s needed to complete the project.
  • They offer project managers a sense of control and predictability.

But how useful are they really when it comes to helping people complete projects on time? Well, I would argue, not that useful at all.

Why Gantt Charts Don’t Work

Within a modern management or small business environment, Gantt charts don’t work for a number of reasons:

  1. They show a level of certainty that is based on experience at best, and complete guesswork at worst.
  2. They require a lot of initial planning at the beginning of projects, much of which most people sense is meaningless.
  3. They require constant attention and dedicated people to keep them up-to-date.
  4. They discourage change—which is fundamental to successful projects.
  5. They discourage independence in teams and are counter to innovation.
  6. They fail to acknowledge the advantage of being agile—of iterating, measuring, learning and adjusting as you go along—crucial practices to industries such as software development, advertising, design, and marketing.
  7. And let’s be really honest here—they require the depletion of a small rainforest to provide the reams of paper required to print one out!
A Gantt chart is as good as the day you created it…

Then real lift strikes - picture showing a gantt chart being shredded inside a picture frame

Just like that famous Banksy canvas that sold at auction, you’ve created a work of art that begins to shred after the deal is done—when your client changes the budget and deadlines, when your best designer is off sick, when you win new work and when the printer lets you down!

Shit happens, and Gantt charts are lousy at handling that.

Planning is Still Critical

Listen, I know planning a project is crucial to its success—after all, how could you have arrived at a budget, how would you know what needs to be done, and how would you know when things need to be wrapped up?

I get that, but there’s a huge difference between writing down a list of tasks that need to be done within certain dates that can’t change—to saying this chart is accurate, and keeping to it is necessary for the success of the project.

Plans should be flexible

Right now, I’ve got a lot of projects on, and lots of tasks to do—but I largely keep my own priorities within a week’s timeframe and our company’s within a much looser four-week period.

That’s not to say we don’t have projects outlined for a few months’ time—they just don’t have a lot of detail right now.

As things change from day-to-day, I simply move my tasks and projects between today, tomorrow, this week and future weeks. Doing my work successfully is all about creating the time and space to focus and do great work—not to endlessly review a mythical Gantt chart that’s a guess at best.

Successful Project Management for Teams

Successful project management allows for the planning of projects but offers the flexibility to quickly adapt and change as things progress. Successful project management is all about clearing the noise away from what really has to get done, to enable team communication and collaboration that is respectful of one another’s time.

I believe Tameday, our project management and team collaboration tool is such a solution. We’re hugely focused on what works right now—not what has worked in the past.

Whilst many small companies believe they need to be creating Gantt charts, their use of Tameday quickly puts such a notion to bed.

Using any PM software should be about making real progress, giving your team control of the project and allowing them to get things done. With a 30-day free trial, you could be making headway on your projects today, without the huge overhead of having to create Gantt charts that don’t help at all.

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