Dependencies are everywhere
In anything we do, there are many dependencies. We could not work with other people without creating some form of dependency. So the question should be "What dependencies exist and which dependencies are the most appropriate to help people work together effectively?"
Dependencies can be broadly categorised as: task related, people (teams) related, and a combination of task and people dependencies. The graphic below shows how a task, task teams, task actions and action teams interrelate in TASKey TEAM software.
Dependencies within Tasks
A task is completed by doing actions (ToDo's). A task is completed by a task team that includes everyone who needs to see the task detail. Most of our tasks involve completing actions in chronological order. Therefore a list of actions required to do a task shown in chronological order shows the dependency between task actions.
When completing an action depends on another action there is a dependency formed between the two actions. Usually one action needs to be complete or at least partially complete before the next action can begin.
Successful completion of an action also depends on the individual or team (Action Team) doing the action. In an action team, if one team member fails to make their contribution, there is some doubt that the action will be completed successfully.
Therefore the three types of dependency within tasks that need to be managed are:
- Action to action (Task)
- Individual to action team (People)
- Actions to individual or action team (Task-People)
Normal Dependencies between Tasks
Tasks (sometimes called Activities) are containers that hold actions. A task is usually given a name that represents what completing all the actions will achieve.
For a larger task, such as a project, tasks can be broken down into manageable groups of related actions (usually in some form of hierarchy or inverted tree). The parent-child relationship between tasks, sub-tasks, sub-sub-sub, etc. (called a task tree) provides a logical framework (of dependencies) for tasks.
Abnormal Dependencies between Tasks
Sometimes an action in one part of a task tree depends on an action in another part. In the example below, Action B (of Task 2) depends upon another Action A (of Task 1) being completed before it can start. If Action A slips, then Action B will also need to slip. This slippage may or may not affect Task 2.
Looking at dependencies at a task level does not provide the level of detail required to make meaningful decisions about the implications of Action A slipping. However by providing Action B Action Team members with details of the Action A (contained in Task 1), they will be able to see slippage coming and adjust Action B appropriately.
Note: By adding Action B Action Team members to Task 1, Action B Action Team members will be able to see all Actions in Task 1, including Action A.
Consequently meaningful dependencies are created and managed through actions and action teams, not directly through tasks (that are simply containers for actions). In addition, actions and action teams relate directly to what is actually happening at the coal face, so the people doing the work can see what they need to do to keep it on schedule.
TASKey TEAM Dependencies
TASKey TEAM software facilitates the easy management of dependencies through actions and action teams in a parent child task framework. TEAM provides a ToDo list for each user, so actions and action teams dependencies from all tasks (no-matter where they are in the task list) can be seen on one list.
Consequently each user can intensively manage all the actions they need to contribute to in context in a timely manner. This distributed coal-face problem solving and decision making reduces potential slippage, and therefore, the number of decisions that need to be escalated to senior management.
Project Management Task Dependencies
Unfortunately project managers using traditional project management methods do not have the level of detail or methods required to manage dependencies through actions and action teams. Consequently they are forced to create dependencies at a task (or activity) level with only resource dependencies. Project management methods do not maintain a dynamic team structure to manage team dependencies and drive the way tasks are completed.
However task level dependencies are certainly better than nothing, because they focus project managers on potential problems that they need to investigate. However task dependencies are a coarse tool compared to the finer decision making detail available from action and action team dependencies.
Using task dependencies can create a significant problem for project managers using project management software. Slipping a task with dependencies can create a chain reaction that reschedules many other tasks. This often leads to a lot of confusion, because lower level (action) reasons are not considered or understood. In the worst case, unnecessary costly slippage is accepted, because of coarse dependencies that were created early in a project at a high level of aggregation from the project manager's perspective.
There is no dispute that managing dependencies is required for effective management. All task, people and task - people dependencies need to be managed. There is a significant synergy achieved by integrating task and action dependencies with individual and team dependencies.
Managing task & task team, and action & action team dependencies is significantly better than only managing at a task level. TASKey TEAM's ability to manage action and action team dependencies (in a task tree framework) eliminates the need for coarse tasks level dependencies, such as those widely employed in project management tools.
So the answer to the question, "What dependencies exist and which dependencies are the most appropriate to help people work together effectively?" is:
- Dependencies that exist are task (and action) related, people (individuals and teams) related, and a combination of task and people dependencies.
- All dependencies are important, however managing actions and action teams in a task framework (as done by TASKey TEAM) provides the decision-making information required for timely in-context decisions at an appropriate level.
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