Mastering Task Management to Bolster Project Management
Project managers manage..projects! Or, do they? Actually, I put forth that, at the end of the day, all project managers do is manage tasks. In fact, in a final analysis, all any manager does ultimately is manage tasks. This premise is based on the idea that, again in the final analysis, all that matters is action, and action comes in the form of performing tasks.
Project managers manage...projects! Or, do they? Actually, I put forth that, at the end of the day, all project managers do is manage tasks. In fact, in a final analysis, all any manager does ultimately is manage tasks. This premise is based on the idea that, again in the final analysis, all that matters is action -- and action comes in the form of performing tasks. What various levels of management - i.e. project, department, organizational, and the like - do is simply manage more complex collections of tasks. But, in the end, all that matters is the execution of those tasks, because that is where the action takes place.
Managing Tasks on a Project
The function of scoping, planning, controlling, managing risks, and more is all about figuring out what tasks are to be done and making sure they get done (at the right time and in the right order). But without the execution of those tasks, any upstream job function, such as the planning and so forth, are a waste of time. Getting the tasks done is what it is all about; and anyone aspiring to get into project management needs to know how to get tasks done -- and how to lead others to do so.
Managing Tasks in a Department
Keeping a department going on a day to day basis involves spending time "at the edge", or on the exception. It involves being both reactive, as processes are monitored and adjustments are needed, and it involves being proactive, as projects are undertaken to improve and advance the processes that exist within the department. Being good at managing change is being a good planner; but sound task management, at the end of the day, is where all the action that matters takes place. Without that action on the tasks, no planning or other managing is needed.
Managing Tasks in an Organization
Action in an organization is a collection of executable tasks within the organization. Making that action take place where it counts the most is the job of upper management. Understanding how to get things done, as well as what, why, when, where, and who, is what leadership is all about. All executives must be good at task management in order to perform effectively.
The Knowledge Economy and Task Management
The knowledge economy has a close relationship with task management; but, unfortunately, people often lose sight of the relationship. In the distant past, it used to be that an individual would be responsible for many tasks, and that is still true in many small businesses. For example, even today, a small proprietor of an auto body shop is usually intimately familiar with every detail of operations, from estimating and business development, to repairing auto bodies, to administration and finance. Much of the high-level-knowledge management work, because it is in one head, is simply executed.
In larger organizations, by contrast, a great deal of collective effort might be put into the process of just turning a bolt. For example, on a manufacturing production line, a worker may need to place a panel and connect it using a couple of bolts. The action of performing this task ends up being a small fraction of the total cost of completion. Behind the task, we will likely find work studies, statistical analysis, much planning and coordination, product design scenarios, and more - all culminating in someone tightening a couple of bolts. Without the tightening of those bolts by hand, all of the upstream work is for naught. Everyone working in "knowledge management" needs to recognize the ultimate goal of their efforts -- maintain perspective on the main objective.
Personal Time Management and Task
It is easy to become frustrated with personal time management and, sometimes, even more frustrated with much more complex challenges. It always comes back to task management, no matter what level is being worked. For example, managing a project is simply an umbrella over a more complex set of tasks, and the only thing that really moves the project forward is the completion of those tasks. A similar statement can be made about department management or organization management.
A more complex situation, such as building a system, or building a building, proves the point. In the end, after all the planning, meeting, discussion, and thinking, what is left is a set of tasks that, if completed on time and within budget to proper quality standards, brings about a successful project. So it is simply a collection of everybody's task lists, alignment with the strategy, and properly prioritizing and sequencing what ties together time and task management. And, in the end, it's all about task management.
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The research for this article was provided by Project Management Training Online, a leader in online project management training. For details on the statistics, see "What Are PMP Candidates Looking for In Online PMP Prep Training?" at PMcrunch.com.