A task is not a project

stop confusing the two

A task is not a project

Confusion between a task and a project

I see too often people confuse a task for a project and act incorrectly because of this misunderstanding.

So, let’s clarify a few points to make a clear distinction between the two so that you don’t fall into that trap.

A task is an activity you or a team do to create something.

It could be the work required to develop a new product or to define a new procedure for example.

Anything we do to create something is a task. We put the kettle on to make a cup of tea is a task. We build a wall to separate two units in a factory is a task.

A project on the other hand is what we define as necessary to bring Change in the way we run our business.

We want to install a new kitchen to enjoy our morning tea ritual is a project. It will bring a change to the way to make our morning cup of tea. It will also have many other benefits besides this simple example by the way. All these extra benefits will justify the expenditure of having a new kitchen installed in our house. 

We want to improve the workflow in our factory to increase productivity is a project. This project will in turn identify the need for a built wall between two units (which is that task we mentioned earlier). 

Remember this,
Projects bring Change to an environment.

The project will identify the Tasks which are required to create the products that will enable that change to happen.

When you start thinking about a new project the first thing you need to consider is why that project is needed.

A good question to ask yourself is
“what would happen if we did NOT do the project?”
Would the business collapse? Would are performance suffer? Would are staff be unable to do their daily work? Would sales drop dramatically because the project was not done?

All very good and simple questions that help you determine how necessary the project actually is.

When prioritising, you can ask yourself similar questions when planning tasks with your team.

Will the project fail if that product is not created?
Will the product not work if a previous task has not been done on time?
What impact of our delivery date will this item have?
Will productivity still improve if that wall is not built?

kanban boards help you focus on achievements more than activities

kanban boards help you focus on achievements more than activities

You could also say that a series of tasks can be managed as a project. Both Tasks and Projects are linked but not necessarily intertwined. You cannot have a project without tasks but you can have tasks without a project.

Daily routine work is a series of tasks that are not linked to a project. 

Think of answering your emails, or updating a timesheet for instance.

Projects are not managed the same way as tasks are and it helps to understand how you could better manage them.

Too often people are given the title of Project Manager when in fact they are Task Managers. Don’t misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with that. I’m just saying that the skills are different and you do not manage tasks the same way as projects.

We talk more about this in our Leadership Destiny group where leaders share their experiences in view to constantly improve and grow as a result.

See you there.

John Higham

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