The Gantt you might not know


WHAT'S at Stake

He's famous for his chart. But a century ago, Henry Gantt also came up with a revolutionary means to motivate project teams.


Most project managers are familiar with the Gantt chart—but there is more to Henry Laurence Gantt's work than his useful document.

For example, most people think the concepts of stakeholder engagement and team motivation are relatively new. But after reading two books by Mr. Gantt, I realized that he introduced these concepts nearly 100 years ago!

Mr. Gantt's standout contribution was his approach to workforce management. It focused on the efficient use of labor, along with a fair division of rewards between the workers and factory owners when there was an improvement in productivity.

His work was influenced by the idea of scientific management, introduced by Frederick Taylor, who held the theory that the best way to understand a complex task is to break it down into its component parts. You then study and optimize each part, and find the best way to complete the work from those parts.

What made Mr. Gantt's work uniquely valuable was how he used this information to motivate workers. He recognized that incentives are a far more powerful motivator than penalties. Standardized work was broken into tasks. Once a task had been set, each worker received individual instruction. When he learned to perform a task during a set time and to the required quality, he was paid a bonus in addition to his daily wage.



If this column has sparked your interest, check out Henry Gantt's books Work, Wages, and Profits and Organizing for Work.

Supervisors earned rewards as well. A foreman received a bonus for each worker on his team who received a reward, and the foreman's bonus doubled if all of the workers in his team achieved a reward. This encouraged the foreman to work with and support the least-effective members of the team.

When everyone achieved the bonus, it showed that the plant as a whole was working to its optimum productivity and generating maximum profits. Whenever a bonus was not earned, the cause was investigated, and removed or remedied. The system proved highly effective and generated sustained productivity improvements, in excess of 100 percent.

Mr. Gantt recognized that a system of management requires all of its parts to work in harmony if it is to be effective and that “in every workroom, there is a fashion, or habit of work, and the new worker follows that fashion, for it isn't respectable not to.”

Consequently, “the changing of a system of management is a very serious matter and cannot be done by a busy superintendent in his spare time.”

Today's takeaway? Detailed planning and accurate recordkeeping are important, and charts help in that regard—but only if the plans are realistic and the team is properly trained and motivated to achieve the objectives. Mr. Gantt also said that forms “are simply the means to an end. If the end is not kept clearly in mind, the use of these forms…is apt to be detrimental rather than beneficial.” PM



Lynda Bourne, DPM, PMP, is the managing director of Stakeholder Management pty Ltd. and director at Mosaic Project Services pty Ltd., both in Australia. Dr. Bourne graduated from RMIT as the first professional doctor of project management.




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