Project Planning and Gantt Charts
W. Durfee, Oct-08
Project Planning Basics
A “Project” is a set of activities which ends with specific accomplishment and which has (1) Non-routine
tasks, (2) Distinct start/finish dates, and (3) Resource constraints (time/money/people/equipment).
“Tasks” are activities which must be completed to achieve project goal. Break the project into tasks and
subtasks. Tasks have start and end points, are short relative to the project and are significant (not “going to
library”, but rather, “search literature”). Use verb-noun form for naming tasks, e.g. "create drawings" or
"build prototype". Use action verbs such as "create", "define" and "gather" rather than "will be made".
Each task has a duration. Very difficult to estimate duration accurately. Doubling your best guess usually
“Milestones” are important checkpoints or interim goals for a project. Can be used to catch scheduling
problems early. Name by noun-verb form, e.g. "report due", "parts ordered", "prototype complete".
Your plan will evolve so be flexible and update on a regular basis. It also helps to identify risk areas for
project, for example things you don't know how to do but will have to learn. These are risky because you
may not have a good sense for how long the task will take. Or, you may not know how long it will take to
receive components you purchased for a project.
Gantt Chart Basics
Gantt charts are a project planning tool that can be used to represent the timing of tasks required to
complete a project. Because Gantt charts are simple to understand and easy to construct, they are used by
most project managers for all but the most complex projects.
In a Gantt chart, each task takes up on row. Dates run along the top in increments of days, weeks or
months, depending on the total length of the project. The expected time for each task is represented by a
horizontal bar whose left end marks the expected beginning of the task and whose right end marks the