Is it the PM or the individual team members? I was listening to PM podcasts and haven't heard this (or missed it). The SPOT kickoff cast says PM knows at least the first 2 weeks or so and assign that to team members. 

I'm assuming it has to be specific team members because they "know" what they are doing but might no have the motivation to break down tasks to small ones and will probably take a loooong time to do so. But if the PM does it all, it might not reflect the real tasks needed.

Any casts that have already been released about this or any guidance on how to fill those smaller  tasks? 

lindge's picture
Training Badge

You're right - if the PM does this, it might not reflect the real tasks (or time) needed, and there could be knock-on impacts of missing deadlines and also losing the buy-in of the people who need to complete the tasks.

That said, the people on the project team might need some help from the project manager (is this you?) to break larger tasks down into their smaller elements for more effective tracking and reporting.  

In terms of how, it's really about asking questions - if someone says it will take 20 days to complete task A, that's not workable for a project plan (you'll likely find out only on day 19 that you've lost 15 days, or something similar). 

So if someone says 20 days (or something similar),  you can ask the person how they calculated the estimate - if they don't know then you've got a bigger problem on the project. 

If they do know, then it's a matter of asking them to break the estimate down into the next layer of tasks.  Then ask how those tasks should be sequenced.  If there is no set sequence that must be followed, then you can discuss with the person what sequence they want to follow and that then becomes the sequence on the project plan that you track regularly. 

I use this approach a lot and normally try to get the length of time on tasks down to 2-3 days max.  The projects I work on can run for 6 - 18 months and I'm balancing my own analysis work with project management responsibilities and I've found this length of a task on my plans works best for me such that I can get early sight of slippage and also not become caught up in over-the-top project admin by going too detailed.

One final thought - over time, if you work with the same people on different projects, you'll get a feel for their estimates and reliability of meeting dates and in addition to providing feedback, can adjust your plans accordingly.



aylim14's picture

 Thanks for the comment. Helped shed some light on stuff. And I agree with what you mentioned, if i do everything as the PM, the deadlines would not be that accurate and the would probably get compliance energy, as oppose to commitment (like what Mark usually says). 

My next question now is what if the project is a recurring one? Like i said, these projects are for clients who book with us for 12 months.  In that case, is it ok for me as the PM to put deadlines (not task durations) for these recurring tasks myself and not wait on them? 

Here's a little bit of background. We are a service-oriented company. Some of the things we provide are financial services (bookkeeping, etc.) and hr services. Let's use the financial example. Every month, there's a set of tasks and deadlines that is already mandated by law that we have to comply with. So tasks revolving that are really fixed in a way. If we don't comply or miss by a single day, penalties are incurred. So on the 10th a tax return has to be filed, on the 20th another one. I do understand if it's a new project, i allow them to do it. But in this case, Do i still allow them or wait on them just for this buy-in? 


lindge's picture
Training Badge

AYLIM14 -  What you describe doesn't sound like a project to me.  It sounds like a repeatable monthly operational process that needs a playbook in place which a manager oversees and assigns tasks to members of the team.  Let me know if I'm not following this right...

if I'm reading it correctly and there is a team responsible for this process and there are known mandatory dates for the tasks, I'd go ahead and assign them to people in the team.  You will then need to ensure you load balance appropriately across the team to ensure it's achievable. 

There are other factors to take into account around training and knowledge on the tasks and the length of time it takes Person A to complete vs Person B, based around different levels of experience and productivity etc.

Jazzman's picture
Licensee Badge

To first address your earlier question, there really shouldn't be an "either the PM" or the "task doer" question.  It's a collaboration!  You as the PM say, here's where we need to be by such-and-such date, and you work together to figure out what tasks are needed to get there.  The PM needs to make sure the tasks are clear, not too long, not too short, etc.  The "doer" needs to make sure he/she understands what needs to be done, has the right tools/resources, and can get it done in the time set.  

There's going to be back and forth, you'll have to talk to's messy!  :)

After you've done it once for a project, when you do something similar, it get's easier...and easier, etc.  

Without debating PMI's definitions on projects, you could even define a "process" for each client or components of your service delivery that everyone agrees is the best way to get things done consistently, every month, every contract.  No need to renegotiate...and great way to measure and improve performance.


aylim14's picture

 Yes, you're right. It's not, technically speaking, a project. It is as you say a monthly operational process that needs to get tracked. The other thing i'd add there is it is client-based. Maybe that is the reason why i think of it as individual projects. 

To confirm what you said, yes there is a team that is handling this and, organizationally, composed of me and one direct. My peer and her direct. So there are 4 of us. We are all in-charge of specific parts of the whole customer experience. 

Insights are really helpful. I'm a high C and i don't want to handle projects the way i normally would want to. I just want to bring a balance between the team as i notice that due to the workload increase (more clients, which is a good thing) the past few months, deadlines are being missed, customers becoming "irritated" in a way, and that does not reflect a good deal about us. And i don't want that. So again, thanks for sharing your experience. 

aylim14's picture

 Thanks for the comment Jazz. I definitely see where you're coming from. Not an either-or situation but tackle it as an and situation where we collaborate on stuff. I believe that's what i'm doin in my O3s with them. To layout the next few tasks, then report on it during the weekly update meetings. So i think i'm on the right track. 


vinnyjones's picture

 Sound to me like you are trying to put all of your work into a project where you might just be better utilising the Mgr Tools trinity.

For me, I would only consider something a project where I need to lead a cross-functional group that I do not have line management over.  This is where the manager tools guidance on running a project comes in handy, but I think that this is adapted from their recommendations on how to run a normal team.

I get you are high C and sounds like you are trying to temper your inclination to insist on details and timings, but asking for these is okay.  If I were you I would re-visit the podcasts on O3s, delegation, feedback and coaching - these might help you instil the discipline it sounds like you desire.

For me, I would get together with the other manager, be really clear in setting objectives for your team e.g. 95% compliant to client deadlines (or whatever measure) and also what broad inputs and behaviours the team would need to achieve this; measure them against this in O3s, give them feedback where they are off track and if feedback.  If it is workload increase that is causing the issues, clear objectives are even more important so they can prioritise effectively - if still an issue then give them feedback this (worth listening to the over delegate podcast)

As long as the directs know what is expected of them then it is okay to give them feedback on misses - if customer  service is suffering then give them a customer service related objective.  You can get their input, but you set the targets.  As per other Mgr Tools recommendations, you might want to discuss this one-to-one and then run a session in a team meeting to lock these down.

Hope this helps a little, this is the first time I have written on the forum.