You speak about HOW to assign tasks, but i wonder what you think is the best TIME to assign tasks.

If i follow the 1/3 rule, i assign tasks "on the fly", which may put some stress on people (why bother if it is to early to start ?), and which is not in adequation with some of the practices we use on our projects where fixed iterations prevail, and are quite efficient to synchronize task assignment with available work capacity.

I know that a lot of jobs cannot be lead in an "fixed iteration" way, but is there something between this way and the "on the fly" methodology ?




mattpalmer's picture

I think of task assignment as being just another sort of communication (which it is).  Give out tasks when the recipient is in an appropriate state to receive them.  That means that the person has to be prepared to listen, comprehend, ask clarifying questions, and be able to record the task somehow.  Time and frame of mind are the two big things to consider, and a notepad and pen help too.

For instance, I wouldn't ask someone to do something in the lift going to lunch -- there isn't enough time, the person is thinking about lunch not work, and they probably don't have any way to capture the task.  On the other hand, I would (and have) ask someone to do something small if I happen to run into them walking around the office, if I think they're not too caught up in something else.  A lot of stuff does get dished out in project meetings or similar, though, and that's cool too.  The big stuff is more likely to be in a project meeting, rather than serendipitously.

In the end, it comes down to the comfort level of everyone involved, which is driven in part by the company culture.  If you're in a very strong "fixed iteration" culture, try dishing out the occasional tiny task on the fly, and see what happens.  Scale up over time if it works well, or put a lid on it and stick to the rigid form if random task assignment doesn't work for you and your team.  Don't forget to always make sure you give a deadline and get acceptance of the assignment, otherwise everything just goes to hell in a handbasket.