“Can you show me how to produce a Gantt chart?”

I received the above request a few days ago and I was taken aback by what lay behind the request.

I asked a range of questions:

  • what are the objectives for this project?
  • what is your role in this project?
  • who has asked for the Gantt chart?
  • what is the end date for the project and the value of the project?
  • what are the project risks?
  • have you done a work breakdown of the project?

I soon realised that this was a request that we could not really help with.

Why not?

Several times during the conversation I heard…”we want to do project management on the hoof”. I asked what that meant (knowing full well) and was told:

“We haven’t got time to go through all those formal project management processes. We need a result damn quick.”

What result I asked?

Silence at the end of the telephone. There were some vague words around profitability but not much more.

I gave the ‘client’ some feedback. I suggested that there was big risk for this company as they seemed to be basing a significant income investment on the back of a cigarette packet (fag packet over here in the UK). I pointed out that there was no business case. Return on investment seemed to be based on a wing and a prayer – relying on hope to see you through, there was no risk assessment, the person who called me had been told to draw a Gantt chart and it appeared as though there was no project manager and the person implied that there were several project sponsors. There were several delivery dates – akin (another metaphor)…to a tennis match, where each hit of the ball is another date.

I offered to come in and meet senior managers to talk through needs in more detail and explain my thinking. I never heard another thing and did not expect to.

I picked up in the conversation that the culture was one of last minute working (overnight if needs be) and people liked and bought into it.

Not me!

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6 Responses to “Can you show me how to produce a Gantt chart?”

  1. It happens, once in a while you get a request that makes you wonder if the person on the other side is actually serious in what he is asking. Additional challenge in that kind of encounters is to explain or at least to give a hint of direction of what is really needed.
    Organization that encourages last minute thinking will very soon find itself in trouble (if not already), though realization what exactly caused them getting to this point might not come along if they think all is needed to manage a project is a quick Gantt chart:)

    • Ron Rosenhead says:

      Anya, many thanks for your comments.

      I think your comments are contained within the words:

      “Where’s the common sense?”

      The problem is that for those of us engaged in project management we are used to the rigours of the area. For others, they thrive on last minute, lack of planning, the adrenalin rush….as I say; not for me!

      Realisation of why a company is in the position its in means reflection…sorry, too busy doing to reflect!

      Unfortunately, I have seen too many examples of the one quoted…

      Thanks again Anya

      • Yes Ron, exactly, common sense.
        Prior to applying any tool, one should consider goals, requirements, resources, stakeholders etc. Well, some people can learn from mistakes of others and some need to do it on their own (unfortunately last option can be fatal).
        As simple as the title of your post might seem, it unveils a huge gap (so thank you for that:) ) in approaches and understanding what it really takes to deliver quality products/services and stay in the market longer than a swift moment.

        • Ron Rosenhead says:

          Anya, often there is a huge gap and it’s all our jobs (those engaged in the PM community) to narrow that gap. We constantly need to educate, question and lead so others will follow. Delivery by example…but of course, this can only be done if common sense prevails!

          Thanks again Anya

  2. John New says:

    If they need a result very quickly and feel that process and documentation would slow them excessively, there are perfectly rational and proven approaches to delivering a project where ‘cigarette pack’ documentation is more than sufficient.

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