A Gantt chart is a type of bar chart, developed by Henry Gantt, that illustrates a project schedule. Gantt charts illustrate the start and finish dates of the terminal elements and summary elements of a project. Terminal elements and summary elements comprise the work breakdown structure of the project. Some Gantt charts also show the dependency (i.e., precedence network) relationships between activities. Gantt charts can be used to show current schedule status using percent-complete shadings and a vertical "TODAY" line as shown here.
Although now regarded as a common charting technique, Gantt charts were considered revolutionary when first introduced. In recognition of Henry Gantt's contributions, the Henry Laurence Gantt Medal is awarded for distinguished achievement in management and in community service. This chart is also used in Information Technology to represent data that have been collected.
Gantt charts have become a common technique for representing the phases and activities of a project work breakdown structure (WBS), so they can be understood by a wide audience all over the world.
A common error made by those who equate Gantt chart design with project design is that they attempt to define the project work breakdown structure at the same time that they define schedule activities. This practice makes it very difficult to follow the 100% Rule. Instead the WBS should be fully defined to follow the 100% Rule, then the project schedule can be designed.
Although a Gantt chart is useful and valuable for small projects that fit on a single sheet or screen, they can become quite unwieldy for projects with more than about 30 activities. Larger Gantt charts may not be suitable for most computer displays. A related criticism is that Gantt charts communicate relatively little information per unit area of display. That is, projects are often considerably more complex than can be communicated effectively with a Gantt chart.
Gantt charts only represent part of the triple constraints (cost, time and scope) on projects, because they focus primarily on schedule management. Moreover, Gantt charts do not represent the size of a project or the relative size of work elements, therefore the magnitude of a behind-schedule condition is easily miscommunicated. If two projects are the same number of days behind schedule, the larger project has a larger effect on resource utilization, yet the Gantt does not represent this difference.
Although project management software can show schedule dependencies as lines between activities, displaying a large number of dependencies may result in a cluttered or unreadable chart.
Because the horizontal bars of a Gantt chart have a fixed height, they can misrepresent the time-phased workload (resource requirements) of a project, which may cause confusion especially in large projects. In the example shown in this article, Activities E and G appear to be the same size, but in reality they may be different orders of magnitude. A related criticism is that all activities of a Gantt chart show planned workload as constant. In practice, many activities (especially summary elements) have front-loaded or back-loaded work plans, so a Gantt chart with percent-complete shading may actually miscommunicate the true schedule performance status.