Proper Task Scoping — Early Finish

August 16, 2022
Project Management

Do your Tasks finish late? If so, there is a high probability that they are improperly scoped.

My last article discussed how to properly create task definitions. Since task scoping directly effects the task definition, this article discusses Task Scope — that is to say, just how much work is defined by a single task.

Over the years I’ve observed that tasks tend to be over-scoped — they have way too much packed into them. I also find that when they are over-scoped, they tend to finish late. Interestingly, they are not late because the scope of work is large — they are late because too many individuals are responsible for their completion.

To fix this I defined 2 important task scoping rules that I use in my method of practice:

1.    Scope the task for assignment to an individual resource, not to a team or group

2.    Scope the task to finish without waiting on another task

There are cases where Rule 1 is impractical, or even impossible to follow. When this happens, assign the task to a team lead who is responsible for reporting the task status. Be sure to keep the task scope constrained to the smallest practical unit of work possible.

Rule 2 should always be followed. It provides scheduling flexibility and protects the integrity of the task estimate. As an example, if a task needs to be tested or inspected by a separate Individual or team, create a separate task for this.

I consistently achieve early finish times when using these scoping rules in conjunction with the following management techniques:

  • Task effort is estimated by the assigned resource
  • Remaining effort is reported at the end of each working day
  • Inhibitor status is reported at the end of each working day
  • Management actively removes task inhibitors

This method does create many tasks in a project — it also creates excellent accountability and project performance.

Steven Souther
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