How A Task-Analysis Mindset Improves the Design Process

Defining tasks when you are evaluating and planning a project can help you:

  • Understand the scope of the project
  • Determine the component parts of the solution
  • Organize the development process

Whether you a contractor or permanent designer, we all need to be able to present the scope of a project and the resources needed to stakeholders and being an expert at task analysis will help you achieve that.

Let’s start by the review of what a task is. A task is a piece of work that needs to be accomplished as a part of a job. Tasks are made up of steps that need to be taken to complete the task. Sometimes these steps are a task themselves, often referred to as a subtask. The idea is to break down job tasks to their smallest components to fully understand what a person needs to understand or accomplish in order to do the job.

Understanding the Scope of the Project

One of the great things about being task-analysis minded is that it helps you to develop questions to ask to define the project. In order to be able to break down the goals of the project into specific tasks you need to understand:

  • The processes or attitudes that learners need to adopt
  • Who the learners are and what their background knowledge is
  • What the measure of success will be

Considering these as you interview the SME or clients for the project and listening for the answers in terms of the tasks will help make sure you probe for the information you to fully understand the scope of the project. This may not all happen in in one conversation but over time.

When you are task-minded, you start by looking for an understanding of each task. This means breaking down the goals of the project to the task steps that fit the audience. By doing this you outline the full scope of the project, which helps you determine necessary resources, and helps you present this to the stakeholder or client.

Determining the Component Parts of the Solution

When you are thinking from a task perspective, it is easy to take the scope of the project and group it into like chunks that will go together. Understanding these tasks or groups of tasks, you can easily evaluate which ones are best resolved as training, what is best served with a job aid, or what can be resolved with an environmental change or other performance improvement solution. The task-analysis mindset helps you to quickly see the pieces and start to see how the solution can go together to best leverage the advantages of different types of solutions.

Organize the Development Process

Once you have identified the tasks and the solutions to be used, it is easy to prioritize the development process and allocate resources appropriately. If you are the sole person doing the project, you can easily determine the order that development needs to happen for the different tasks and make sure that it lays out efficiently and those pieces that could get stalled later are done first or those things that might change as the project progresses are done later so as not to do them.

Are You Ready to Move Forward

  • Do you have a plan?
  • Does everyone know the plan and their role in the plan?
  • Can [team member] explain the plan to me?

These are three great questions to lay-out before your team as they finish up the planning process, before they start to implement a project. While they are simple, each questions helps make sure that the team is ready to move into implementation.

 

Do you have a plan?

This first question is designed to make sure that the team is ready to move from planning to implementation. To often, teams of people decide to start developing and implementing a solution without laying out a full plan. People want to believe that the rest of the plan will become clear once they take the first steps. While it may be true that things will become clearer, it is still necessary to start with a plan. Just because you have outlined a plan, doesn’t mean that you will not evolve your plan as more information becomes clear or unforseen issues arise. Flexibility is essential as I wrote about in a previous post, Have a Plan…Have Felxibility. Having goals of the end results of an initiative or what deliverable you will create is essential to understanding what you need to do in order to achieve it. It is also essential to determine the metrics you will use to judge success and implement a proper assessment through knowing the end result and the path to getting there.

 

Does everyone know the plan and their role in the plan?

This question is the glue of a team. Having one person who understands the goals and the plan and is directing others is having a puppet master with puppets, it is not a team. Asking this question does two things, first, it makes sure that everyone is included and involved and secondly, it ensures that each person knows and understands their role is the success of the project. Too often, there is a need to know attitude. The problem with this is that if a person is unclear on their role, they are unlikely to meet project expectations. They will not properly allocate their time or resources and ultimately, their contribution may not represent their best work because it is done last minute. It is also importasnt for people to understand how their piece of the project fits into the whole. Two things happen when a team member understands the entire project, first they feel valued because they are fully a part of the team, secondly, they are able to provide work that is cohesive with others work and with the project timeline. Further, if the project leader is removed from the team, the project will suffer less of a setback if the rest of the team understands the entire project.

 

Can [team member] explain the plan to me?

This question is the meat of determining if the team is ready to end the planning phase. The key here is to ask a team member to explain the plan and outline the different steps and responsibilities. A good team will make sure that each member understands the entire project and can provide at least overview information about the different steps and the contributions of other team members. It is best to ask a team member who has not the team leader, but a contributor. This increases the likelyhood that all team members do understand and provides an overview given through a different voice than the team leader and providing a different perspective. When a team member can provide this information, they are more likely to collaborate with others when issues arise and direct questions to the appropriate team members.

 

While the implementation phase of a project is where the bulk of the time and energy is spent, the planning phase is the most important because it prepares the team for success. You want to make sure that you do not move from the planning phase too soon. These questions help you determine if the project is ready to move forward successfully.