As entrepreneurs we have a vision of what we want to achieve and we can see it, feel it and hear it. It’s exciting, but at times it can be daunting as you paint the big picture of your vision.

You may be starting on your entrepreneurial journey and struggling to implement the bigger picture, or you may be unsure of exactly what steps you need to take and when. If you are already on your way to painting or refining your vision, you may feel overwhelmed with competing demands from clients, suppliers and staff.

For startup entrepreneurs the questions that can arise are where to start, how to identify the best use of time and deciding on a common-sense approach to achieving your goals. If you are already in business, the same questions can still apply. Usually the question of work/life balance gets thrown into the mix too and you’re wishing you could drop the paintbrush and head to the coast for the weekend. If this sounds like you, consider using a Gantt Chart.

The Gantt Chart was invented by Henry Gantt, an American mechanical engineer and management consultant born in 1861. He created the chart for his clients in 1910 and it’s still used today in all kinds of organisations, from grassroots to global, all over the world.

gantt chart

[Credit: See the original at Team Gantt]

A Gantt Chart is a list of activities under main high level elements of work, with start and finish dates, that are depicted visually with horizontal lines similar to a bar chart. Gantt Charts are commonly used in project management and can be used by anyone in any industry.

Whether we are starting our business or already operating, it’s crucial that we’re monitoring not only our performance, but the performance of our suppliers and team members, in getting to market in a desired timeframe. It can be difficult to measure performance when you haven’t decided how to quantify it. A Gantt Chart is a useful tool to support you in doing this and communicating your performance progress and expectations.

The benefits of using a Gantt Chart are numerous. It can help you understand what activities you need to do to achieve the bigger picture. It enables you to understand what needs to be done when, and the duration and best order of these activities. This allows you and those around you to make the best use of your time.

As entrepreneurs we need to make time to look after ourselves and make sure we don’t become a slave to our business. Using a Gantt Chart is an excellent way to make sure you factor time in for yourself and your family and friends, and reassign activities which can be done another time, to achieve your desired work/life balance. You can even include your ‘non-negotiables’, such as gym time or time with your family, and work the activities in the Gantt Chart around this.

A Gantt Chart is a great way to make sure your team are working on the right tasks and performing well. If you are delivering work to a client, you can use the Gantt Chart to manage their expectations by agreeing to when you need to deliver, and to show them what they need to give you and by when, if necessary. It can help you communicate to others your expectations of them as well. Your suppliers will know when to deliver and can communicate to you in advance if they are going to miss the deadline, and the same applies to your team members.

Gantt

[Credit: See the original at ConceptDraw]

Creating a Gantt Chart is quite straightforward, but you will need to give yourself time to create it. There are several software packages such as Microsoft Project, Smartsheet, Basecamp and even Microsoft Excel if you wish to keep it simple.

The steps below outline the fundamentals of how to create a Gantt Chart, and turn that big picture into a reality:

  1. Be clear on what exactly you wish to achieve. What is in the big picture now and what can be added in later?
  2. Identify the main high level elements of work you need to do to get to market. This is like drawing the key features of the big picture on the canvas in pencil, ready for the brush strokes.
  3. Break those main high level elements of work down into activities. This is where you start applying the brush strokes.
  4. Identify the duration of those activities. When doing this, consider who will work on what, their work hours and other external factors that may impact the duration of the activity. Don’t forget to block off days such as weekends, as the software you’re using may assume you are working weekends.
  5. Apply sequencing of the activities. What is the order of the activities? What activities need to be done first before another activity can start and another can finish?
  6. Decide on a start date of the first activity. When you have completed the steps above, the start date will trigger the dates for the remaining activities, which drive each other as they are sequenced (think of dominoes having a knock-on effect to each other).
  7. Review the Gantt Chart to see if you are happy with how it looks. Do you need to change the sequencing of activities so the order of them is more achievable? Are the dates in the schedule realistic for you, your team and suppliers to deliver? Have you overloaded yourself and others with too much work, or is there not enough work in particular activities?

Once you have created your Gantt Chart you can send it on to suppliers, team members and clients for their feedback and agreement. Doing this is crucial for them to agree to their deadlines, in order to avoid resentment or avoidance of their responsibilities.

When they have agreed to the deadlines in the Gantt Chart, you can use it as a productivity tool to measure performance with them. If performance is deviating or about to deviate, you can work with them to get back on track and meet your deadlines.

Consider using a Gantt Chart within your business. It can help you be sure of what you need to do and when, reclaim your work/life balance, measure performance, and communicate expectations. Ultimately, a Gantt Chart will help you get your product to market smarter and faster.


Sarah Dean is the Founder of EmineoHub, who assist entrepreneurs in getting to market by using project management.

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