Gantts, Lies, and Videotape 2: Task Stuffing

stuffingIn the spirit of Thanksgiving here in the US, we’ll continue our “Gantts, Lies, and Videotape” series with a discussion of stuffing — or dressing, if you are not a big fan of Salmonella.

Stuffing may have a home at the Thanksgiving table, but it has no place on your Gantt charts. In fact, stuffing your Gantt chart full of a disproportionate number of tasks is another way that a lot of people inadvertently lie in their project reports. Here is an example of a Gantt chart that has been “stuffed”:
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Gantts, Lies, and Videotape 1: Wrinkles in Time

This three-part series will walk you through some of the ways we see people lie on their Gantt charts. We don’t encourage lying, so we recommend reading this series to know what to watch out for when building project reports, or when reviewing reports that others have created.

We’ll start episode 1, “Wrinkles in Time,” by asking our readers to take a look at the Gantt chart below and quickly determine which team is doing the most work on the project:

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Blood, Guts, and Project Delivery

The source of many sleepless nights

The source of many sleepless nights and pulled muscles

I forget my kid’s birthday all the time. For some reason, I have a mental block on February 4th. I don’t have any time remembering his birth itself, though. Psychologists will tell you that this is because the birth of a child is a life event and is forever cemented in one’s memory. I, on the other hand, will tell you that I remember it because childbirth is a memorable event for a whole host of other reasons, and my wife will undoubtedly agree.
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What’s RIGHT with Wall Charts?

In my colleague Nathan’s recent post, “What’s Wrong with Wall Charts,” he suggested that wall charts are impractical for the purposes of project reporting, despite the gigabytes of professional advice accumulated in the never-ending Tufte Blog exchange.  But what about analysis?

Nobody should EVER produce a wall chart to communicate status or for any other reporting purpose, however, they do have a very valuable, albeit temporary, utility during certain analysis activities, and in certain situations over the lifetime of a project, program, or portfolio.  It’s just another flavor of data visualization.  Yes, producing one may kill trees, but it will likely save your company lots of green in the process.
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