Project Management – Fast Tracking with Gantt Charts
By Liz Cassidy
Gantt charts are useful tools for analysing, planning and controlling complex multi stage projects.
Gantt Charts can:
Assist in identifying the tasks and sub tasks to be undertaken
Help you lay out the tasks that need to be completed
Assist in scheduling when these tasks will be carried out and in what order
Assist in planning resources and needed to complete the project,
Assist in working out the critical path for a project where it needs to be completed by a particular date.
When a complex or multi stage project is under way, Gantt charts assist in monitoring whether the project is on schedule, or not. If not, the Gantt chart allows you to easily identify what actions need to be taken in order to put the project back onto schedule.
An essential concept behind project planning is that some activities are dependent on other activities being completed first. For example, it is not a good idea to start building the walls in an office block before you have laid the foundations; neither is it a good idea to put the cake mix into the tin without greasing the tin first.
These dependent activities need to be completed in a sequence, with each stage being more-or-less completed before the next stage can begin. We can call dependent activities ‘sequential’.
Other activities are not dependent on completion of any other tasks. These activities may be done at any time before or after a particular stage in the project is reached. These activities are called are nondependent or ‘parallel’ tasks.
To learn more on how to draw up a Gantt Chart; refer to my previous article on Gantt Charts.
Sometimes it is necessary to complete a project earlier than originally planned or than your previously drawn up Gantt Chart says is possible.
In this event you will need to take action to reduce the length of time spent on each task and stage. This is called fast tracking.
One way to fast track a project is to pile resources and funds into every single project task to bring down the time spent on each task. This would probably consume huge additional resources and is a very expensive way to complete a project. In my early days as a chemical engineer on a huge Chemical plant, this method was normal.
A more efficient way of fast tracking would be to look only at activities on the critical path. ie Fast track only those tasks which are dependent on other tasks being completed.
A construction example is using tilt slab concrete walls which are made at the same time as the foundations are being laid.
Resources are added only to those activities which are on the sequential critical path. Costs would still increase but in a more planned and controlled manner.
This method works also well when a deadline on the project is missed, and remedial action is needed to gain time and catch up to the original timetable.
Liz Cassidy, founder of Third Sigma International is an author, Speaker, Trainer and Executive Coach dedicated to facilitating results in the businesses, professional and personal lives of her clients. For more information http://www.thirdsigma.com.au
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