Hello my friend,

The topic for today’s article is related to general management. But in project management context it has even more importance in my opinion. Because the correctness of task’s settlement has major impact on task’s accomplishment. And there are numerous reason for that.

One bad example

This week we have sent the engineer to site to fix the problem with one old ATM switch (it’s a network equipment). The process to do such task is very straightforward. In HelpDesk tool the corresponding ticket is created with description of the needed activities and this ticket is assigned to the field engineer services, which manager assigns ticket further to the certain engineer. Something in this chain has apparently broken, as when the engineer has come to site, he hasn’t been aware of the problem and needed activities, so he has just closed the task without performing necessary restoration activities and informing the ream, which has this ticket created. So the problem here is that manager of the engineer hasn’t checked if engineer has accepted and understood the task.

If it’s possible to avoid doing work, it will be avoided.

Another bad example

Approximately a year ago I was a technical coordinator at the project, where my company built a direct peering with Amazon in order to increase network capacity and reduce latency during usage of different Amazon’s cloud services. From technical point of view it’s very straightforward, as we just rented a dark fiber to Amazon and configured BGP on top. But from the organizational prospective it is wasn’t so easy, because this dark fiber was managed by three different companies simultaneously (besides end-point termination):

  • Amazon is hosted in the first data center and is attached to this data center in-house cabling.
  • In-house cabling in the first data center was managed by one service provider (SP A)
  • connectivity between data-center was managed by another service provider (SP B)
  • in-hose cabling in the second data center was managed by the third service provider (SP C)
  • Our network equipment was installed in the second data center and was connected to its in-house cabling

In order to bring all things working we had to create very detailed network plan. And even with this documentation we have many problems, which were outcome of improper task settlement to technics. Improper meant that we didn’t tell field engineers to call us, when everything was done. We thought it was obvious, but it wasn’t obvious for field engineers.

How it must be done correctly?

There are certain rules that must be followed in order to maximize the opportunity for the task to be done in time and correctly. The main idea for the plan below I’ve taken from the book “Management’s formula” by Timur Dergunov, who is one of the best Russians CEO:

  • The work plan (implementation plan) must be accurate and complete. No actions must be considered as “by default”. Even small activities must be documented.
  • Upon setting task to someone ask him to explain what he should do in his/her own words. It will show if the employee understand the task or just read what is written.
  • It is also important to ask the employee how he/she is going to perform the task. The idea here is to make employee to think about details and possible ways to accomplish the task.
  • The last but not least is to ask the employee about his opinion about possible constrains for performing the task. It makes employee to dig deeper and provides you as a manager a valuable feedback and information

035_pm_task

As you see, the main idea is to engage the employee (or team member) in the task at the very beginning and discuss whit him/her all the details. Such engagement will help him/her to accomplish the task correctly without spending too much time on thinking it about along. If people speak and discuss something, he is more likely to do it well.

If there is ambiguity in task, it won’t be done correctly

Lessons learned

I’ve heard about the importance of task’s settlement at different project, time and general management trainings. There are a lot of interesting and useful topics, like SMART goals, which I use myself very much. But all this themes doesn’t cover how to set the task for your team member, what is not easy as it seems to be.

Conclusion

Though this topic might seem very easy, its importance is really huge. In one business back (I guess it was “Damn it, screw it” by Richard Branson, but I can be mistaken) he explains that in business usually wins someone who is good in basic activities. If you good perform basic activities, then you will achieve lot. Such essential thing as proper task setting, will define how successful you project are keeping your within schedule/time/budget estimation or out of them. Set tasks wisely! Take care and good bye.

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BR,

Anton Karneliuk