Thinking Outside the Bar Chart
Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
My introduction to formal project management came in college when I built what must be the world’s biggest bar (Gantt) chart. This back-bending project deserves a footnote in project management history, if not a mention in The Guinness Book of World Records.
As an aerospace engineering sophomore at the University of Washington in Seattle, I took a part-time job that Boeing advertised as a “hands-on project management role” setting up the tracking system for the very first Boeing 747. This was during an era when project scheduling software was still in its infancy. Sounded exciting!
The true meaning of “hands-on” became clear on my first day when they handed me a big box of quarter-inch thick black tape and instructed me to install parallel grid lines on a mile-long white Formica wall in a tunnel under Boeing’s manufacturing facility in Everett, Washington. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was a mile long. The Everett Boeing plant is one of the world’s largest buildings—you could fit all of Disneyland inside the building.
The top parallel line had to be seven feet high, so I stood on tiptoes to reach high and spread my roll of tape out horizontally across a mile. Then, I’d drop down eight inches and tape another mile-long strip. The bottom few rows required that I crawl, and for the very bottom row I sat on my rump and scooted along the cold ...