Henry Gantt’s legacy to Management is the Gantt Chart

Henry Laurence Gantt (1861-1919) was a mechanical engineer, management consultant and industry advisor. He developed Gantt charts in the second decade of the 20th century as a visual tool to show scheduled and actual progress of projects. Accepted as a common-place project management tool today, it was quite a radical concept and an innovation of world-wide importance in the 1920s.  Gantt charts were first used on large construction projects like the Hoover Dam, started in 1931 and the interstate highway network which started in 1956.

Download Henry L. Gantt’s book Organizing for Work in PDF form.

Henry Gantt’s contribution to the management process is honored today through the The Henry Laurence Gantt Medal.  The award established in 1929 is given for distinguished achievement in management and for service to the community.  Download Henry L. Gantt’s book Organizing for Work in PDF form.

Evolution of the Gantt Chart

An early “Gantt” chart

From Henry L. Gantt’s Organizing for work, here is one of his early charts.  These would later be referred to as Gantt charts.  The first Gantt charts were a very humble method for tracking the progress of factory workers compared to a standard level of performance.  A separate record was kept for each worker.  The worker’s progress was recorded in black if the worker met the standard level of performance.  It was recorded in red if the standard was not met.  These early Gantt charts evolved into the Gantt charts still widely used to day for tracking the progress of projects.  Current Gantt charts list the steps in a project and illustrate when each step is expected to begin and end.

One early use of the Gantt chart was to schedule and monitor the construction of the Hoover Dam (1931) and the Eisenhower highway network (1956).

Here’s a simple example that might have been used around the time Gantt charts were invented (if computers had also been available to make the charts look this precise:)

Early Gantt chart users showed progress using a simple “fill in the bar” method to show how much of the project was complete:

They also might have shown the planned bar along side the progress bar like this:

Another type of chart which was used along with the Gantt chart was the basic “Milestone chart”.  This type of chart shows only important project events or milestones:

A modern project management chart

Milestone charts are very popular today, especially for management reporting.  A major benefit is that it’s easy to communicate a great deal of information in a single presentation slide.  This example shows how the complete overall progress of two major projects might be presented to upper management:

Henry L. Gantt – His life story

Major Milestones in Scientific Management

Preface to Organizing for Work by Henry L. Gantt (1919)

The two greatest forces in any community are the economic force and the political force backed by military power.  To develop the greatest amount of strength for the benefit of the community, they must work together, hence must be under one direction.

Germany had already accomplished this union before entering the war [ WW I ] by having her political system practically take over the industrial, and the Allies rapidly followed suit after the war began.

We also found soon after entering the war that our political system alone was not adequate to the task before it, and supplemented it by a food administrator, a coal administrator, a war labor board, a war industries board, a shipping board, and others, which were intended to be industrial, and as far as possible removed from political influences.  There is no question that they handled their problems much more effectively than was possible under strictly political control.

The Soviet system is an attempt to make the business and industrial system serve the community as a whole, and in so doing to take over the functions of and entirely supplant the political syste.  Whether it can be made to work or not remains to be seen.  Up to date it has failed, possibly because the control has fallen into the hands of people of such extreme radical tendencies that they would probably wrek any system.

The attempt which extreme radicals all over the world are making to get control of both the political and business systems on the theory that they would make the industrial and business system serve the community, is a real danger so long as our present syste does not accomplish that end; and this danger is real irrespective of the fact that they have as yet nowhere proved their case.

Is it possible to make our present system accomplish this end?  If so, there is no excuse for such a change as they advocate, for the great industrial and business system on which our modern civilization depends is essentially sound at bottom, having grown up because of the service it rendered.  Not until it realized the enormous power it had acquired through making itself indispensable to the community did it go astray by making the community serve it.  It hen ceased to render democratically, but demanded autocratically that its will be done. “It made tools and weapons of cities, states, and empires.”  Then came the great catastrophe.

In order to resume our advance toward the development of an unconquerable democratic civilization, we must purge our economic system of all autocratic practices of whatever kind, and return to the democratic principle of rendering service, which was the basis of its wonderful growth.

Unless within a short time we can accomplish this result, there is apparently nothing to prevent our following Europe into the economic confusion and welter which seem to threaten the very existence of its civilization.

Download Henry L. Gantt’s book Organizing for Work in PDF form.

Milestones Professional – Gantt chart software – www.kidasa.com

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