Chapter Four: The Gantt Chart is Dead

Troublemaker Coach
5 min readJan 24, 2021

As the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, Mike Tyson so eloquently put it…

“Everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the face”

Image thanks to Johann Walter Bantz on Unsplash

Building a construction project or running a shutdown is a constant barrage of punches to the face that a Gantt Chart physically can’t keep up with.

We all know {at least sub-consciously} that Gantt charts don’t work, yet the construction industry collectively still clings to the idea that you MUST have a Gantt.

Why is that?

Let’s take a quick look two things for context.

  1. Where the Gantt Chart comes from.
  2. Why do we will still use the Gantt?

The History of the Gantt

These charts are called Gantt charts, after Henry Gantt, who developed them.

With the advent of personal computers in the 1980s making it easy to create these intricate charts — and to make them really complex — they have become works of art.

Every single step laid out in detail. Every milestone. Every delivery date.

The charts truly are impressive to behold.

The only problem is with them is that they are always wrong.

Henry Gantt invented his famous charts around 1910.

They were first used in World War 1 by General William Crozier, who was the Chief of Ordinance for the US Army.

Anyone who has studied that war knows that efficient organisational capability was, not exactly a salient feature.

Why a World War 1 artefact has become the de facto tool used in twenty-first century

Project Management has never been quite clear to me.

We gave up on trench warfare, but somehow the ideas that organised it are still popular” ~ Scrum | Page 5

So why do we still use them?

I can’t tell my board that.

I worked on a shutdown early in 2020 where we had four people fulltime around the clock {2 days — 2 nights} literally just updating the Gantt.

And that doesn’t even take into consideration that countless hour the supervisors {24} and superintendents {4} spent updating their lookaheads.

And you know what? Nine times out of ten the data was wrong.

Not because they were doing anything wrong, the Gantt Chart system just doesn’t work.

We were literally {again quoting the book Scrum} paying people to lie to us.

“The trouble is, once that beautifully elegant plan meets reality, it falls apart.

Because instead of scrapping the plan, or the way they think about the plan, managers instead hire people to make it look as if the plan is working.

Essentially, they’re paying people to lie to them” Scrum | Page 5

Before that shut down started I was talking to the overall manager of it.

He had seen a lot of my posts on LinkedIn and was particularly interested in what I’d been sharing about running a project with Scrum.

After about an hour of chatting with him, he said, it’s sound fantastic, but I can’t tell my board that.

“If I tell my board of directors that you’re going to run the shutdown with sticky notes — a sharpie and a whiteboard, I’ll be out of a job.

The idea of replacing a Gantt with Scrum just isn’t possible.”

The Sunk Cost Effect

The sunk cost effect is the more eloquent way of saying throwing good money after bad.

Or as I prefer to say… Stepping over $20 notes to pick up $1 coins.

It’s the tendance of people to keep investing both time and money into something that is clearly not working.

Mainly because we’re brainwashed by the school system to avoid failure.

Side Note: Troublemakers have immunity to this brainwashing because they spent more time sitting outside the headmaster’s office than they did in the classroom!

My cunning plan to replace the Gantt Chart with Scrum, from the bottom up.

There’s another underlying problem, that I’ve only just recently discovered whilst learning to build a Startup.

To break the Gantt Chart’s stranglehold on the Construction Industry you have to find Scrum early adopters.

Early adopters will put up with cost, ridicule, and friction to get their need met” Erika Hall. Author, Just Enough Research

It’s rare to find a Troublemaker {unless they own it} at the top of an organisation.

They tell the truth to much and call out the B.S. that goes on until eventually they’re chopped down to size, or run off of a project.

For the Construction Industry to change from Gantt Chart to Scrum it has to come from the Troublemaker up, as it will never come from the top down.

So how do we bury Gantt Charts once and for all and have them replaced with Scrum?

The answer is one Troublemaker at a time.

I first met the legendary Troublemaker Padraig O’Shea {anymore Irish he’d be a leprechaun} on an oil and gas project in South West Queensland back in 2013.

Paddy is the perfect example of a Troublemaker.

Troublemaker:A smart person with strong contrary opinions who’s not afraid to speak up if they think somethings not right

We got on from the first day we met, and we’re still good mates to this day, in fact after the Scrum session that we did together {that’s documented below} he said to me…

“You’d better be putting me in that fecking Troublemaker book Beanieeeeee”

Paddy like all good Troublemakers doesn’t mess around and is quick to implement.

This is a LinkedIn post of his just days after our session.

Here at Castlequinn Construction Services, we like to think outside the box, to be innovative, not with our words but with our actions.

After a great online session with Adam Bean last week we are currently trialling a Scrum/Kanban planning/programming system at a major civil project in the Brisbane metro area, having successfully performed on the project to date our services have been secured to the end of October ensuring project delivery in a complex and challenging environment.

I owe Paddy a huge debt, as he was the first one to pick the Scrum ball up and run with it.

The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader” ~ Derek Sivers

Every time a Padraig O’Shea puts a Scrum board up on a Construction Site, it’s another nail in the coffin for the Gantt Chart.

So this is the first of your action steps Troublemaker.

When you’re ready, message me via VOXER saying…

Hey Beanie, I want to know more about Scrum.

Because the way I see it you and I have two choices…

Let the industry stick with Gantt Charts that are proven to lead to massive time and cost blowouts, which ultimately costs us all.

Or we start adapting to SCRUM.



Troublemaker Coach

Back when I went to School the Teachers had a name for me… Troublemaker. Turns out though out in the real world being a Troublemaker is my biggest advantage!