Gantt Charts for Business

Someone I know well runs a large sales team.  She is on the hook for delivering $200,000,000  to the business each year. That is a pretty big nut but she smart and exceptionally good at what she does.

If you asked her what a gantt chart or gantt diagram was, I doubt you would get a good answer because she doesn’t care about project management and does not find gantt charts particularly interesting (what a surprise).  I suspect she would probably tell you that gantt charts were for product development teams, and gantt diagrams were for IT folks or consultants.  Fair enough.

Interestingly though, she breaks down her $200,000,000 quota and forecasts it on a timeline predicting revenue attainment goals (milestones) at key points throughout a fiscal year.  She also lists the necessary activities (tasks) her team must do to accomplish these milestones.  Then she breaks down each of those activities into smaller pieces (sub tasks) and assigns them to her team.  The model sounded like a gantt chart to me so I made the template below with Office Timeline

gantt chart template for business planning

Click for detailed image

Office Timeline is a free timeline maker that is embedded into PowerPoint, so using it to create and share a gantt chart or and gantt diagram templates is intuitive and quick.  It starts with a simple wizard for entering the key milestones and tasks of your business plan or you can import that data directly from Excel. Then with a push of a button this business plan is turned into a graphical gantt chart on a PowerPoint slide.

Now my friend above does not intentionally use the principles of gantt, however she is applying one of the fundamental rules of project management, WBS (work breakdown structure). The benefit of this is that she can deliver a repeatable rhythm to her business year in and out. She showed me how this was all planned out for her business planning reviews…and they were gantt templates that she re-purposes each fiscal year.

The process of using a timeline maker for business planning made me realize how powerful and ubiquitous they are.  Since so much in business is about planning and executing campaigns, timelines are very relevant.   Although gantt charts have typically been the domain of project oriented people, I can recall them being effectively used in business roles.

Beyond using gantt diagrams for sales planning, here are a couple other scenarios of business leaders using them to effectively communicate business plans.  The first was a training scenario where the general manager mapped out specific training due dates to his team in the field.  In his case he used a PowerPoint timeline template to clearly communicate the training commitments and the due dates (tasks and milestones) he was holding his team accountable for.   The second scenario was a marketing leader who was communicating a marketing plan to her team.  She also used a gantt template to map out the phases of her campaign (tasks) and the key deliverable dates (milestones).

As I digested all of this I realized that PowerPoint is the way they communicate and being able to easily present business plans on a gantt chart or timeline makes sense.

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Suggested Reading
Simplifying Gantts for important presentations
Tutorial for making a Gantt chart with Excel
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