Project management has developed hugely as an individual knowledge area and sphere of study during the latter half of the twentieth century, as industrial and technological processes have grown in complexity and projects have taken on new levels of interconnection and codependency. In order to deal with these increased complexities and codependences, project management came into its own as a science and developed several tools to specifically deal with organizing these complexities. The critical path method, the program evaluation and review technique, and the Gantt chart are all tools that were developed in the latter half of the twentieth century to help project managers make sense of vast and complicated projects. The following paragraphs will describe and evaluate these tools.
All three charts are used for the purpose of graphically representing different tasks and/or processes that are involved in a given project, the time that these separate tasks or processes will take, and the levels of dependence that exist between various tasks (NetMBA 2011; MindTools 2011). Critical path method-created charts and program evaluation and review technique charts are highly similar; the former should be used in cases where the exact time of processes can be determined and more strictly controlled, and outlines both task dependency and time, while the program evaluation and review technique charts are designed specifically for projects where greater variability or randomness can affect process time (NetMBA 2011). Gantt charts can be used alone or in tandem with either of these charts, and present a different view of project organization that is at least complimentary if not always suitable on its own (MindTools 2011).
Both critical path method charts and program and review technique charts can be drawn as either activity-on-arc (or activity on arrow) or activity-on-node charts, with the primary difference being the placement of the labels on the charts, frankly (NetMBA 2011). When activities are placed on the arrows, there can be a greater sense of the concurrent nature of various processes and tasks as the arcs move forward towards project completion; activity-on-node setups emphasize the greater codependence of certain processes and tasks by making movement from nodes impossible until all required activities have been completed (NetMBA 2011). All projects could technically be mapped out as either activity-on-arc/arrow or activity-on-node charts, with project appropriateness and project manager preference being the determining factors (NetMBA 2011). Gantt charts can be seen as solely activity-on-node charts, though they aren’t typically described as such and are not really directly comparable in a meaningful way with the other chart types in this regard.
Making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich could potentially be broken down into PERT and Gantt charts. The retrieval of ingredients from the fridge and breadbox, taking out of the utensils, removal of the bread, spreading of the ingredients, resealing of al packages, slapping the bread together, and putting everything way would all be parts of the process. The critical path sequence would follow basically this same order, with the need for ingredient removal clearly coming before the need to put everything away, and the sandwich making process in between.
MindTools. (2011). Gantt Chart. Accessed 13 October 2011. http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_03.htm
NetMBA. (2011). PERT Chart. Accessed 13 October 2011. http://www.netmba.com/operations/project/pert/
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