At the beginning of the project, the project manager created the work breakdown structure (see Figure 5-3) to determine the skills needed for project work, by first identifying the major tasks to be performed and the specialty work areas that they entailed. This, in turn, guided the selection of the project team. One, or several, team members (who are specialists in each area) now represent each major project task. Each specialist will have already identified the work package that his or her major task should be broken into and have listed the individual tasks making up this work package. If a workgroup, rather than an individual, is required to complete a task, which is often the case, the workgroup leader must consult with the workers in order to develop the task list.
When Is a Task a Task?
If the individual or workgroup is able to do a task without breaking it down into smaller discreet units of effort, the level of breakdown is sufficient. Each unit of work is designated as a task. If a work package consists of several discreet separable efforts, it should be broken down into these separable efforts. These separable efforts will be treated as "tasks" on the final task list and are shown in Figure 5-3 as subtasks.
For example, one work package for a project to build a house is to build the foundation. The "build the foundation" work package breaks down into these tasks: (1) survey the lot and determine corner locations, (2) excavate the site, (3) lay out the footings, (4) pour the footings, (5) establish the lot drainage, (6) construct the cinder block basement walls, (7) pour the basement floor, and (8) cap the basement. These tasks can be done by individual teams, and constitute sufficient breakdown to be designated as "tasks." However, providing for drainage requires two separable tasks: 1) install drain tile, and 2) install a sump pump. Each of these subtasks will be considered as a task.
Note that several different craftspeople involved in the "build the foundation" work package are on the project team. The masons will quite readily note their tasks of "pour the footings," "construct the cinder block basement walls," and "pour the basement floor." They also should have included in their task lists other like tasks that come to mind, in order to assure that nothing was left out.
The project task list does not necessarily describe task sequence, but the task leaders will often think in these terms. It is important for the project manager to keep in mind that these tasks must be broken down into smaller, discreet, independent work units, and that none are left out. Breakdown is satisfactory when individuals are identified who can determine exactly what has to be done, how long it will take, and who will do it. If, on one unit of effort, several groups are each working independently of each other, the unit needs even further breakdown. Each autonomous team should have its own task.
Projects that are more complex than building a house often break down into several levels between the "major task" level and the "task" level diagram (shown in Figure 5-3), but the process still remains the same. The team should continue the breakdown until all work units have been broken down to their task levels. To achieve this breakdown, team members should seek out information about similar and previously completed projects, examine the Gantt charts, and then perhaps talk to resource persons outside their organization. The team's goal is to always be clear and complete about what needs to be done.
The procedure used in IPM of having the task performers not the project manager provide the task list information results in a more complete list and also achieves a greater team member commitment to the project.
The sample task list in Figure 5-2A, 5-2B, and 5-2C is used for one basic project in a series of basic projects that comprise a major project. The major project is to construct a very sophisticated machine to be used in the computer chip industry.
The sample task list covers the design of the machine. Its major tasks are prototype design, fluid flow design, mechanical design, software development, electrical design, and layout 3D design. The prototype design major task breaks down into 11 tasks. Fluid flow design breaks down into nine components that are tasks, and one design fluid test facility, which is a work package broken down into six tasks. Mechanical design is a major task that breaks down into five tasks and two work packages, each of which break down into several tasks. Software development is a major task that breaks down into eight tasks. Electrical design breaks down into three tasks. Layout 3D design is a major task that does not break down at all but is simply one task.
The major project described here is real, and was completed several years ago. Its goal is to design, develop, manufacture, test, deliver, and install a unit ordered by a customer. The work package for the design basic project is done first. It is followed by the development basic project, the manufacturing basic project, and on down, with each requiring its own task list.
There are fewer than 30 members on each project team, and each team works efficiently in developing their task lists and subsequently executing their projects. The basic project managers comprise the major project team, which is led by a major project manager who coordinates all their basic projects.