On the few occasions I’ve told myself the situation calls for a Gantt chart – or more accurately the use of MS Project to plan tasks and dependencies such that I end up with a Gantt chart – I’ve almost always been disappointed. In retrospect, the complexity of the project, or my lack of skill in using MSP, has meant the plan ended up not being able to predict much of what actually happened.
At hotels.com, we don’t do project plans in UX/Product beyond “Q3 deliver this, Q4 deliver that”. I don’t have cause to break out MSP these days for any granular tasks. So I was pleasantly surprised last week to find that my project planning software skills hadn’t been entirely wasted. This weekend, I decided to paint our sash windows – and that called for a Gantt chart.
Unlike most other Gantt chart-based plans I’ve made, this one actually was useful. So I preserve it here for next time (windows need re-painting about every 6-8 years).
There are 20 distinct tasks involved in giving three windows and frames two coats of both exterior paint (drying time 4 hours) and interior (drying time 6 hours). Without mapping it all out before hand, I was in danger of not being able to eat meals, leaving our house without windows for too long, or screwing up some 100 year-old fixtures.
As an aside, one of the things that occurred to me is that if you treat the tool (I was using Project Management for Ubuntu) as a way of simply drawing out what you think the plan should look like, then that’s almost always an automatic fail. One of the great realisations I had when using MSP was that if I let it tell me what was possible, a huge burden was lifted. And so it was with this. At first I was pretty sure I could do the whole thing by waking up early and ploughing ahead. So I listed the tasks, gave them all likely durations, and linked up their dependencies. The first draft told me that I’d be painting well into the night unless I skimped on the prep. So to lower the risk, I decided to give myself more time on the washing and sanding, then letting the first coat dry overnight before starting the remainder in the morning and finishing on Sunday afternoon at a civilised hour. Yes, I bust out my original deadline, but it was either that or chaos. You can have it on time, on budget, or to specification. But you can only choose two.