Any project is made up of many different tasks. Some of these are derived from the project content and are included in the work plan. Others are routine, short-term tasks, which are often peripheral to the project itself but that are nonetheless necessary for its completion.
These important but peripheral tasks require management and control, too, and can provide significant information for the project’s various control systems. An example of a routine but important task is one assigned to the team leader in a weekly team meeting, wherein he is required to contact a particular supplier to verify a particular technical detail. This task will not be added to the work plan but must still be tracked.
Managing these routine tasks requires organization but does not necessitate the use of specialized project management tools. A simple, well-organized table can serve just as well, as long as the following general managerial principles are observed:
- The task is clearly defined.
- The date when the task originated is recorded.
- The relative rank of the task in the overall priority list is established.
- The target completion date is set.
- One person is appointed to take overall responsibility for the task.
- The actual completion date is recorded.
- The task status is documented.
The list of the project’s routine tasks must be managed and updated on a daily basis and used as a platform for discussion during regular team meetings, alongside discussion of all other relevant topics.
As they occur, the completion dates of these routine tasks should be documented to keep track of any tendency to deviate from the expected completion schedule. This piece of data is yet another indicator of a potential problem brewing. For example, discovering that many tasks deviate from their target completion dates might signal deeper problems affecting the ability to complete tasks on time. Analyzing a group of tasks can often point to a specific trend—one that is the result of root problems that must be solved. If these root issues are left unresolved, it is likely that the observed problem—in this case failure to complete tasks on time—will be repeated.
It is important to identify early indicators of problems in the project and therefore identify and monitor:
- Tasks that were supposed to be completed but not completed
- Tasks that ended late
- Delayed tasks by person responsible
- Delayed tasks by category