Last week I read about how OmniPlan is ready for visionOS, the OS which powers Apple’s Vision Pro goggles headset spatial computer. It’s looking like it’ll be one of the first apps ready for the new platform. OmniPlan is a project management tool.

From their post (my emphasis added):

We are pleased to share that the first Omni app on visionOS for the new Apple Vision Pro will be OmniPlan, our tool for powerful project management. With OmniPlan for Apple Vision Pro, your Gantt charts are no longer limited by the size of a physical display screen. How cool is that?

Is this satire?

Jokes aside, there is a real use case. Gantt charts do have their uses, and they’re still used in a lot of places where certainty is necessary (whether it’s possible or not, that’s another matter). So it’s fair to assume it’s been built to meet a real user need. The author reminisces on large Gantt charts:

Large Gantt charts have been in my life for as long as I can remember.

Please, go on…

When I was young, I remember my father bringing home Gantt charts for the assembly line of the Boeing 747 in big paper rolls. Dad would spread the charts out across the carpet on the living room floor, so he could scan and study them to identify potential issues with the production plan.

When Dad found an issue with the plan, he would have to move that section of the paper up to the coffee table to make his annotations. The next morning, he would take those annotated rolls back to the office with him to talk with the team about what they would need to do to keep production on schedule.

Really?! In the week where hundreds of Boeing 737 jets have been grounded and inspections have found loose bolts that weren’t installed properly, which caused a plane’s side to blow out mid-flight, we’re celebrating Gantt charts and the ability to keep to schedule? I ask again: is this satire?!

To be clear: I’m not saying that person’s dad is to blame.

There’s no evidence to suggest that Gantt charts caused those issues, but it does raise an important point about obsessing over delivery schedules instead of ensuring you’ve got the basics right. It was covered in a piece on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme last week (starts around the 39 minutes and 37 seconds mark). Here’s a part of the discussion.

Rory Kennedy: In our film [Downfall: The Case Against Boeing] we talked about the McDonald Douglas merger as being a seminal moment in Boeing’s history where they really started to prioritise profits over safety. And of course, as you say, the effect of that is not only the tragic loss of life with 346 people who died in the 737 Max crashes, but also for shareholders, they’ve lost a lot of money.

Evan Davis: And a sort of symptom of it, I suppose, would be moving the headquarters away from where the operations were. So all the planes have been made in Seattle, and then they move the bosses over to Chicago, and you’ve got a kind of complete detachment between what’s really going on and the C-suite, the corporate board.

Rory Kennedy: That’s right. That was also a significant event, and I think was an indicator that they’re no longer going to really be hands-on in the development and the building of these aircraft, and they’re instead going to go to their board meetings and be in large buildings and make decisions that have financial drive to them, but not necessarily are connected to the quality of the aircraft and the safety of its passengers.

Evan Davis: Sir John Kay, do you see Boeing as a case study of the phenomenon that you write about? Sort of, think about the shareholders and watch the shareholders themselves suffer thereafter?

Sir John Kay: Indeed. I think it’s one of the archetypal cases, and for me, Rory has mentioned one of the seminal moments, which was the move of the corporate headquarters from Seattle to Chicago, and they actually said at the time that it was a mistake to be too close to the operations of the company. Well, that’s one point of view.

And his predecessor as CEO – who came from McDonald Douglas, actually – said “When some people say I changed the culture of Boeing, that was the intent”. So to run like a business rather than a great engineering firm, people invest in the company because they want to make money, and it was the great engineering firm that came to dominate the global aviation market. We’ve seen where wanting to make money ended up.

A great engineering firm doesn’t skip the basics, it gets safety right. A business, however, is chasing growth and more profit, which can encourage cutting corners that shouldn’t be cut.

Admittedly that’s a big tangent from the original story, about OmniPlan being ready for the Vision Pro. But when you think about it, if having Gantt charts that are no longer limited by the size of a physical display screen is a contributing factor to moving the end date into the future, it could actually help ensure that people don’t skip the basics. Which is cool, actually.