The top 16 project charts to visualize project effectiveness

Team Asana contributor imageTeam AsanaJanuary 13th, 20228 min read
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Summary

A project management chart is a visual representation of the tasks and objectives involved in a project or process. From Gantt charts to bar charts, view the top 16 project charts and find out how they can help you become a better project manager.

Whether or not it’s your job title, being a project manager means finding ways to execute work more effectively. For teams, visualizing tasks can help streamline communication and create transparency. 

Project charts help team members visualize tasks and understand how that work connects to larger business goals. From Gantt charts to flowcharts, there are a lot of different types of charts to choose from. These can include charts for planning and resourcing such as Gantt charts, WBS, and CPM, executing such as Kanban and timelines, and reporting such as a bar chart and burndown chart. 

We’ve put together 16 of the most effective project charts in each of these categories and outlined how each can benefit your team and help you achieve your goals.

Project charts for planning and resourcing

A common misconception in project management is that project charts are only useful for reporting. In fact, some of the most valuable project charts are those that help you set your project and your team up for success. 

Using project charts for planning and resourcing can benefit your team at all levels: 

  • Individual contributors have a clear way to visualize upcoming work.

  • Team leads can ensure they have enough resources to hit their goals on time.

  • Stakeholders get a bird’s-eye view of the work to come, which increases engagement and buy-in.

Take a look at the top seven project charts for planning and resourcing: 

1. Gantt chart

A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart used to illustrate a project’s schedule by visualizing tasks over time. In this chart, each bar represents a task or initiative, and the length of the bar determines how long the task or initiative should take. Use Gantt charts to visualize the timeline, tasks, and goals within a given project. 

While not the original inventor, Gantt charts became popular thanks to Henry Gantt in the 1910s. Gantt charts have come a long way since their original use of logging factory hours. Today, they’re used to track real-time project progress, visualize task dependencies, and represent important milestones. 

Best for: Teams looking to visually map out their project plan so they can coordinate dependent tasks and hit their deadlines on time. Gantt charts are helpful for planning and scheduling projects from start to finish. 

[Timeline View] Brand campaign project in Asana, Gantt chart-style viewTry timeline with Asana for free

2. Work breakdown structure (WBS)

A work breakdown structure is a method used to visually break down project tasks into smaller units. You and your project team can use a WBS to visualize required deliverables and dependencies while streamlining communication.

Work breakdown structure example

There are three levels within a WBS, which include parent tasks, dependencies, and sub-dependencies. These levels break tasks down into their most simple form, showing the work required to complete the parent task.

Best for: Teams working on complex projects looking to break down tasks into small pieces. A WBS helps to visualize dependencies, connecting tasks to larger goals. 

3. Critical path method

A critical path is the longest sequence of activities your team needs to finish on time in order for the entire project to be complete. The critical path method is a technique used to identify the amount of time each of these activities requires. 

Since delays in critical tasks can affect the entire project, the critical path method helps to facilitate better resource allocation and avoid bottlenecks. Once you identify the critical path, you can schedule tasks with enough time to ensure your team can complete the project deliverables on schedule. 

Best for: Teams looking to complete a project in the most efficient timeline possible. The critical path method helps to schedule deliverables and project due dates. 

4. PERT chart

PERT stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique. A PERT chart is a tool used to schedule, organize, and map out tasks within a project. You can use it to gain a visual representation of a project's timeline that breaks down individual tasks.

The purpose of a PERT chart is to better understand how to connect tasks to one another, giving a clear visual of dependencies. You can use a PERT chart to evaluate required resources and estimate task duration and team allocation.

Best for: Teams working on a project with complex sub-dependencies. A PERT chart helps to accurately allocate resources, keeping deadlines on track. 

5. Flowchart

A flowchart is a diagram that illustrates the steps, sequences, and decisions of a workflow. You can use a flowchart to plan, visualize, and document important steps in a process. 

A flowchart may incorporate different visualization tools such as a PERT chart or swimlane diagram. You can use a flowchart for a variety of purposes, including to simplify complex workflows, organize tasks, and identify bottlenecks. 

Best for: Teams who struggle to solve bottlenecks and keep tasks organized. A flowchart makes it easy to visualize project issues and solutions. 

6. Network diagram

A network diagram consists of boxes and arrows to depict tasks and visualize whether they are critical or not. It is one of many resource leveling tools used to adjust project dates and gauge available resources. 

Use a network diagram to map the chronology and schedule of project tasks.  Plan the duration of projects and track progress along the way with the help of a network diagram. 

Network diagram

Best for: Teams who struggle to keep projects on track and prioritize deliverables. A network diagram helps to prioritize critical tasks. 

7. Matrix diagram

A matrix diagram helps you understand the relationship between data sets, functions, and project elements. You can use this diagram to identify problems, allocate resources, and assess areas of opportunity within a project. 

There are a variety of different matrix diagrams which include L-shaped, Y-shaped, C-shaped, T-shaped, and X-shaped. Analyze the goal and data points of your project to determine the right diagram for your team. 

Best for: Teams who work on data-focused projects and need help connecting tasks to goals. A matrix diagram helps your team understand the relationship between data and goals. 

Project charts for executing

Once you’ve finished the planning process, use project charts to execute your work. Track exactly who’s doing what, by when, and why. Keep your team on track with a central source of information and update them on any changes in real-time. 

Let’s take a look at the five best project charts for executing work: 

8. Kanban board

Kanban boards are a way to visualize work that needs to get done, especially as work moves through stages. You may have seen these created out of sticky notes or on a whiteboard.

Virtual Kanban boards tools are more dynamic—they allow you to track the progress of work across different stages in real time. While these stages vary from team to team, yours may include New, Ready, In progress, Drafting, Hold, and Complete.

Best for: Teams who embrace continuous improvement and prefer to work in successive stages with clear deliverables. Kanban boards help to visualize the stages within a project. 

[Board view] Brand campaign Kanban board in AsanaCreate Kanban boards with Asana

9. Pareto chart

The Pareto principle states that roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. Use a Pareto chart to visualize project tasks based on this 80/20 rule. 

Pareto chart

You can use a Pareto chart to identify priorities and make the best decisions for your team. Consider which tasks will have the biggest impact with just 20% of your team’s time. This will help align smaller tasks to larger goals and give your team clear direction. 

Best for: Teams who have a heavy workload and need help prioritizing projects. A Pareto chart helps to organize tasks by priority, so you can make the biggest impact. 

10. Project timeline

A project timeline helps you stay on track so you can hit your deadlines. Map out project progress and connect smaller tasks to larger business goals with a project timeline. 

To get started, create a project timeline by listing out your to-dos, estimating the duration for each initiative, and mapping out dependencies. Once your timeline is in place, share it with all of your project stakeholders so they have real-time insight into your initiatives, and deadlines—as well as any changes you make along the way. 

Best for: Teams looking to stay on track with tight deadlines. Project timelines help visualize the work needed to reach goals. 

Visualize your project timeline with Asana

11. Fishbone diagram

Use a fishbone (Ishikawa) diagram to represent issues or bottlenecks within a project. This type of diagram is also commonly referred to as a cause-effect chart. In a fishbone diagram, the head of the fish represents the issue or bottleneck you’re trying to resolve while the ribs represent different categories and associated tasks. 

You can use a fishbone diagram to solve solutions for root cause issues using the help of your team members. Examples of issues include a lack of resources and incorrect project data. 

Best for: Teams who struggle to solve project issues in real time. The fishbone diagram helps connect issues to potential solutions so you can identify the next best next steps. 

12. Control chart

A control chart is a way to visualize project changes. You can use a control chart to understand how long tasks take to complete compared to the allocated resources. This will give you a true picture of the project’s progress over time. 

To create a control chart, start by determining an upper and lower limit—such as task duration or number of resources—to represent set milestones. Erratic changes that exceed these limits symbolize drastic fluctuations. Once you identify those fluctuations with your control chart, you can quickly address and resolve them.

Best for: Teams who struggle with solving issues that derail or postpone projects. A control chart helps you stay on track with allotted resources.

Project charts for reporting

A critical—but sometimes overlooked—part of project management is reporting on work once it’s finished. It’s amazing if you’re able to hit your project goals, but without a way to report on your work, your team can’t learn from your successes—or mistakes. 

Effective project charts for reporting give you an opportunity to learn valuable lessons from your project, and apply those lessons moving forward. 

To get started, check out these four types of project charts for reporting:

13. Bar chart

A bar chart is a traditional approach to visualizing project data. The purpose of a bar chart is to measure project variables based on milestones. With its simple format and versatile components, it’s no wonder so many teams use bar charts. 

You can create a bar chart by plotting the variables of your choosing, such as task hours or project cost, on the X and Y axes. This design allows you to quickly digest project data and share it with key stakeholders. 

While you can create bar charts by hand, the best way to generate this type of chart is to create it with a universal reporting tool. When your bar chart is directly connected to your team's work, you can reduce manual work and duplicative tasks and dedicate more time to high-impact initiatives.

Best for: Teams looking for a simple way to visualize project components. A bar chart helps to analyze various project variables against goals. 

[Reporting] Universal reporting interactive dashboards in AsanaTry reporting with Asana for free

14. Burndown chart

A burndown chart is a visual representation of the remaining work vs. the time required to complete it. You can use a burndown chart to estimate task duration, analyze issues, and determine your project completion date.

The purpose of a burndown chart is to accurately plan for future resources based on data. To create a burndown chart, plot estimated task duration against the actual time on a chart. This will give you a visualization of the ideal vs. actual work duration. 

Best for: Teams looking to analyze the estimated work time vs. the actual. A burndown chart helps to determine project due dates. 

15. Burn up chart

A burn up chart differs from a burndown chart in that it represents the amount of work left to complete, rather than the duration. In short, it tracks project progress as opposed to time. 

To create a burn up chart, plot the ideal tasks remaining against the actual amount of tasks remaining. This will give you a clear understanding of where you need additional resources. You can use both a burndown chart and a burn up chart together to understand the full picture of team efficiency.

Best for: Teams looking to analyze the estimated vs. actual amount of work. A burn up chart helps to determine resource allocation

16. Pie chart

A pie chart is a traditional design similar to a bar chart, though it differs in visual layout. A pie chart breaks down different components within a project. For example, if you anticipate the research phase to account for 10% of the project and it exceeds 20%, you know where to begin analyzing areas of improvement.

Pie chart

You can use a pie chart to track significant components within a large project to better understand resource allocation and important metrics and insights. 

Best for: Teams looking to understand the breakdown of a given project. A pie chart helps your team visualize multiple components against each other to determine where you’re spending the most time or resources. 

Visualize your work to increase clarity

A project chart can help your team better digest project information through simple visuals. This can help you streamline project planning by setting clear expectations up front. 

While there are many different types of project charts to choose from, project management software makes building diagrams easy. From shuffling between projects and tasks to keeping feedback and team communication in one place, a project management tool can help you accomplish your goals. 

Try reporting with Asana for free

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