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:
If you guessed Team 3, you’re dead wrong, but it’s ok, because the chart above is quite deceptive. If you take a closer look at the time axis at the top, you’ll see that the months of July, August, and September 2014 take up five times as much space compared to everything else. This means that any tasks in Q3 2014 will appear to take five times as long. All of Team 3’s tasks are in Q3 2014, so it’s easy to see why it looks like they are pulling the most weight.
There are perfectly good reasons to stretch and compress the time axis in your project report. Many managers want to focus on in-progress activities and deemphasize tasks that are in the past or are too far out in the future. This is fine, but only if you are not using the same chart to understand durations or levels of effort.
Keeping the time axis linear allows fair representation of every deliverable in the project. This revision to our Gantt chart keeps things in proportion and even adds some text showing the total hours of work:
With this in mind, it’s easy to see that Team 3 is actually doing the least work (624 hours), while Team 1 is doing the most (1,728 hours).
So as you’re building your project reports, remember that stretching time often means stretching the truth!