Dear all,

I was listening to the HLPM podcast and more specifically part 4 about deadlines and too long tasks. 

For those tasks that are more than a week, should a PM assign the task of breaking up his long tasks into shorter ones to accountable direct or is it a PM's job ?





asteriskrntt1's picture

It is the direct's role to find the best way to do the job correctly and on time.  Everyone knows that breaking large tasks into small pieces is the best way to go.



stephenbooth_uk's picture

 The guidance I normally follow for dividing up tasks is to break them up on:

  • Products - Where a product is delivered break the task.  Often this will mark the end of the task anyway but where a task has multiple products a product can be a reporting point  to track progress.  There can be a need for some judgment here as to the relevance of a product.  If a task is delivering 10 identical products a week for 5 weeks then you'd probably only want a report every 10 products so the product you're breaking on is the report (which would likely be an email saying "Delivered 10th product on time.  On track for next 10 products."
  • Interfaces - Where this task has an interface to another task break the task.  Generally this will be where either this task delivers a product to another task or consumes the product of  one or more tasks.  Again you might need an element of judgment so if task A delivers 10 products a week which are then consumed as they are delivered by task B then you might have a planning assumption that for the purposes of planning all 10 products are delivered at 9am on Monday morning so you break at every 10th interface or have a report when every 10th interface occurs and break on that report.
  • Resources - Whenever the reource carrying out a task changes, split the task.  A resource may be an individual contributor but is more likely to be a team.  Where responsibility for delivery of a task passes from one team to another break the task.  There would probably be some sort of handover report at this point so you can treat the report as a product and break on that.
  • Stage Boundaries - If you are using a methodology such as PRINCE2 you are likely to have administrative stages at the end of which you, as PM, will go to the board tro report progress, outline you plan for the next stage and ask for authority to proceed.  If you don't get authority to proceed the project stops (this would be unlikely to happen as you wouild typically request authorisation to progress to the next stage in plenty of time to resolve any issues before the end of the current stage) so a task should not cross stage boundaries, break the task at the stage boundary.  In practice you would probably adjust your stage boundaries to fit tasks or get dispensation from the board when that stage is approved if a task ran slightly beyond the stage boundary.  If your normal stage is 10 weeks by default but you have an 11 week task then you'd either make that stage 11 weeks or get the board to agree that that task could continue into the next stage. 

 As a PM you're concerned that a product is delivered on time, to cost and to the required quality.  The details of how that happens is down to the team who have the responsibility for delivery.  The manager of that team would probably have their own project plan that goes into the detailed breakdown of the task.  You, as PM, may check that such a plan (or something functionally equivalent) exists and matches the timescales of your plan (your high level plan may be based on estimates, estimators have been known to get things wrong) but you don't need to go into the detail.  Similarly you need to know that the, say, "Server procure, build and configure" task is 60% complete but not that the tin and spinning rust has been delivered and they have attached the storage array, installed the OS and are now waiting for the RAID array to build before they can install and partch the database software and set up the databases before they can install the application software and that if the database install and patch isn't started by 16:00 Fred (to whom it is currently assigned) will have gone on leave for 2 weeks so Sheila will be doing it instead.



Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack


Singers's picture

Very useful post Stephen ;)

Kind Regards
Mads Sorensen
Disc 4536