Task versus Step

We deal with tasks every day. For example, prepare for a meeting, review the report, or buy some milk. Many tasks are focused and singular. I may have 10 tasks in my to-do list for today. I get my first task done. Check. It goes off the list. Nine more. At this point the 10 tasks may or may not be related to each other or anything else for that matter. Many people work with tasks in their to-do apps, such as Outlook, Excel, or sticky notes.

The problem is that thinking of a work item as a "task" may be too finite or individualistic.

What if our tasks are indeed related to each other? Should we care? Maybe we don't if our only objective is to knock them off our list. 

Now, let's look at the word "steps". Think of a step like you're walking, putting one foot in front of the other, heading someplace. What's important with a step is that it's part of other steps on their way to a destination, or a result. Steps make up a process. A process gets you results.

A step has movement. A task sits in one spot. A step is part of a group. A task is alone. A step wants to feel like it belongs to a bigger purpose, contributing to others. A task is selfish, only thinking of itself. 

The term "step" is just as much about collaboration as it is about getting someplace. For one, a collection of dependent steps in a process rely on inter-step collaborating. One step's output is another step's input. One step's problem can lead to another step's concern. And one step's completion is another step's kick-off.

Assign people to the steps and you get something powerful. Each team member can see how their role is part of a bigger picture. They get to understand the "why", not just the "what". People tend to get more engaged when their work influences others or vice versa. 

Today, traditional project and PPM tools fail with this kind of engagement since they are task-based rather than process-based. A project built with a list of tasks and not a process of steps will lead you blind.  

If you want to achieve quality results on time and on budget, structure your work as steps, not tasks. Most importantly, find a tool like Pie that helps you and your team drive steps as a repeatable process that can continuously improve your project's results over time. Don't fall off the cliff! Build strong process content and then run your projects with predictability.

Written by: Paul Dandurand, PieMatrix CEO

Photo by: Paul Dandurand

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