I’ve been doing a lot of work lately with managing teams, and I’ve found a system that works pretty well for me with a task management process. The first thing you have to know is the data fields that really matter if you’re going to track tasks. Bolded fields below HAVE to exist or the task can’t be created:
- 1-Critical, 2-High, 3-Medium, 4-Low
- Not Started,Active, On Hold, Pre-Closure, Complete, Archived, Absorbed
- Requested By*
- Requested On
- Suspense Date
- Date Closed
- Due – Calculated field ((number of days)=Today – Suspense Date)
* – Must be free-form entry (not static lookup tables) because who does tasks and who asks for tasks WILL CHANGE. It will change a lot, and you can’t account for everyone.
Now here are the rules:
- A ‘Task’ is anything that some person outside of the team (supervisor or elsewhere) is going to care when that gets done**.
- If you can’t look at a task and immediately know whether it’s done or not done…change the task.
- Bad Task: “Consider using blue paint in bathroom”
- Good Task: “Decide bathroom paint color” in description “Options include blue, gold, pink,…”
- Tasks can only be “Archived” in a regular team meeting or by getting written approval from “Requested By”
- If Outcome and “Date Closed” are not filled for a “Complete”/”Archive” status the system MUST revert it to “Pre-Closure”
- Cover all Critical and High items with a status update in every team meeting. Mediums and (especially) Lows can be skipped, just ask team to read list and call out new or issue items.
- Anyone can and should add a task at any time from any “Requested By” to any “POC” (This means Version Control and non-repudiation is CRITICAL)
- It’s very common to find out that a task is really part of another task or is duplicated by another entry. Put it in the “Absorbed” status and reference which task it went into in the Outcome. (Yes, this might be served better by a lookup/reference, but KISS until you need to get complicated)
**Think of an employee saying “Hey boss, I finished the (a)” where the boss says “Of course you did, it’s your job…how does that get us closer to (b)?” You want (b) in the task tracker, not (a).
Right now I’ve hit a sweet spot for managing my lists using a combination of Access and Sharepoint. Access because of the low development time and ubiquity on corporate laptops, and Sharepoint because you need a common place to maintain statuses so ALL team members can interact with a relatively speedy interface ALL the time (Access is my interface, my SharePoint instances are always like molasses).
This works very well for me at work, now to figure out how to use it at home.