Displaying Your Project’s Schedule - dummies

By Stanley E. Portny

Unless all your activities are on a critical path, your network diagram doesn’t specify your exact project schedule. Rather, it provides information for you to consider when you develop your schedule. After you select your actual dates, choose one of the following commonly used formats in which to present your schedule:

  • Milestone list: A table that lists milestones and the dates you plan to reach them
  • Activity list: A table that lists activities and the dates you plan to start and end them
  • Combined milestone and activity report: A table that includes milestone and activity dates
  • Gantt (or bar) chart: A timeline that illustrates when each activity starts, how long it continues, and when it ends
  • Combined milestone and Gantt chart: A timeline that illustrates when activities start, how long they continue, when they end, and when selected milestones are achieved

Consider this example. It’s Friday evening, and you and your friend are considering what to do during the weekend to unwind and relax. The forecast for Saturday is for sunny and mild weather, so you decide to go on a picnic at a local lake. Because you want to get the most enjoyment possible from your picnic, you decide to plan the outing carefully by drawing and analyzing a network diagram.

This table illustrates the seven activities you decide you must perform to prepare for your picnic and get to the lake.

Activities for Your Picnic at the Lake
Activity Code Activity Description Who Will Be Present Duration (In Minutes)
1 Load car You and your friend 5
2 Get money from bank You 5
3 Make egg sandwiches Your friend 10
4 Drive to the lake You and your friend 30
5 Decide which lake to go to You and your friend 2
6 Buy gasoline You 10
7 Boil eggs (for egg sandwiches) Your friend 10

The image below presents a 45-minute schedule for your picnic at the lake in a combined milestone and activity report.

milestone and activity report
Representing your picnic-at-the-lake schedule in a combined milestone and activity report.

You may combine two or more formats into a single display. The image below illustrates a combined WBS, responsibility assignment matrix, and Gantt chart (in which triangles represent milestones) for the picnic-at-the-lake example. In addition to requiring less paperwork to prepare and being easier to update and maintain than separate information documents, a combined display can provide greater insight into the plan by presenting two or more aspects together for ready comparison.

combined WBS project management
Representing your picnic-at-the-lake schedule in a combined WBS, responsibility assignment matrix, and Gantt chart.

You may also choose to display your project schedule with an Interface Gantt chart. In addition to including all the information you find in a simple Gantt chart, the Interface Gantt chart represents dependencies between the project’s activities and milestones with arrows drawn between the bars. The picnic-at-the-lake 45-minute schedule is presented below with an Interface Gantt chart.

Interface Gantt chart
Representing your picnic-at-the-lake schedule in an Interface Gantt chart.

Each format can be effective in particular situations. Consider the following guidelines when choosing the format in which to display your schedule:

  • Milestone lists and activity lists are more effective for indicating specific dates.
  • The Gantt chart provides a clearer picture of the relative lengths of activities and times when they overlap.
  • The Gantt chart provides a better high-level overview of a project.
  • The Interface Gantt chart has all the benefits of the plain Gantt chart plus it illustrates the order in which the activities are performed.