I had a handful of people reach out to me after the last podcast with questions about my gantt chart. I figured the easier thing to do was hop on here and elaborate.
I am sure most construction software programs offer scheduling platform solutions, but as mentioned previously I do not use one. I am a huge advocate for them, I just do not do the volume to support the cost. My money is made through reduced overhead and remaining lean, so generally speaking simpler is better for me.
If you are just starting out or do not have a paid program, it is relatively easy to use excel or numbers to do so. Here is how I do it.
I have a list of dates in row one at the very top of the document. This includes all weekdays and weekends. The weekends are blocked out in red, because I do not schedule or work weekends unless absolutely necessary. The first column is labeled “Task” and below that is every task associated with the project. I am not getting into the weeds here, general tasks are fine (stucco, site prep, painting, cabinetry). The column to the right of that is “Budgeted Days.” For each task I have an estimated amount of days that that task will take, and it is accounted for in this column.
Next thing I do is begin to populate the task and budget columns. Generally speaking, I am doing my best to populate the task column in a sequential order. The order in which the project would commence, sustain, and complete, but do not waste too much time sweating those details. Week one, this will most likely change!!! Once you complete all of your tasks and all of your budgeted days, it is time to start developing your gantt chart. One tip is to color code each task a different color (I typically choose four or five colors and rotate them). This helps visually break up the tasks and helps when reading the gantt itself.
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After you have all of your tasks color coded, I make a second pass at when each task can start, and then block out “bars” for the amount of budgeted days taking into account the weekends. I do my best at this point to account for some fluff and downtime between trades or tasks. On the other side of the coin, I overlap as many trades as possible. For example exterior trades and interior trades may be able to occur simultaneously, so that is reflected in the gantt chart. I may be able to perform certain tasks while waiting on inspections, so again here is an opportunity to do so. This gantt chart allows you to really see where you can make up time, and where you may need to account for extra time.
As the job progresses you can alter or edit your gantt chart fairly easily. I do this on a two-week basis. I will not edit every task, but I keep a general idea on where we stand, and if we are ahead or behind schedule. This chart also affords me a clearer understanding of when I need to perform certain tasks. For example, under the countertop section, I will have a day blocked out two weeks prior to the template to schedule the template so that I do not forget to do so. This chart is used as a project management, financial, and scheduling tool. I use it as a reference but do not live/die by the day to day inventory.
Use this tool loosely, edit it accordingly, do not panic if the days do not match up day to day or week to week, but instead look at milestones and deadlines. Each day changes, and we are constantly adapting, so spending hours on your gantt chart every two weeks is wasted time. Look at critical dates and define a critical path to getting there. Maybe the dates do not line up with your chart, but if the tasks are still completed by the time the critical dates arrive, you are fine. Just like anything else, this document is a “guesstimate.” Stressing over the day to day is foolish and a waste of time and energy. It is another tool for maintaining budget, maintaining schedule, and visually communicating with the team. If you are behind schedule (which is typically the case), it helps determine why, and affords you an opportunity to explain to your customers, designers, and subs what is going on and how you intend to move forward. Use this as a basis for your schedule management. Learn to adapt and evolve. Understand that we are working in an imperfect world, and use this document to manage that.
- Tyler Grace