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The work that has to be done is the foundation for your project plan. The estimates you develop, the team you use and the schedule you build, all stem from the project work. The key is to divide the project work into small tasks, so you can plan, track and manage your project effectively. Breaking tasks down makes it easier to estimate time and cost. Once you've broken tasks into smaller pieces, it's easier to assign tasks to team members.
Smaller tasks make it easier to measure progress. When you work with smaller tasks you have tasks completed more frequently, and each completed task is a clear indication of progress. Now let's look at how to document the tasks you've identified. For very small projects a simple task list might be enough. If the project is a little bit bigger you can organize all of the smaller tasks into a hierarchy, which is called a Work Breakdown Structure.
We'll go into more detail on how to create work breakdown structure a little later. Whether you use a task list or work breakdown structure you can use the scope statement and deliverables to identify tasks. Let's look at some of our deliverables from the relocation example. These include a signed lease, an approved design, blueprints and the new space ready for business. You can start by identifying the tasks you need to produce each of these deliverables.
If any task on the list seems too broad or sounds like it will take a long time, you can break it down into even smaller tasks. When you break down into smaller tasks the higher-level task is called a summary task, because it summarizes the tasks below it. How do you know whether you've broken your tasks done enough? The frequency of your status reports is one way to do this. If you report status on a project every week, tasks should last a week or less, so you can tell how much progress has been made.
You will also have to make sure your team members understand the work that each task represents. When you need to describe work in detail it's best to create a separate document, that way you can hand the details to the person assigned to the task. If you do create separate documents for detailed instructions, include the name of the file in your task list so it's easy to find. You might also include results or a test that will show when the task is complete and whether it was completed correctly.
Now that the work is identified, you can move on to the next planning steps of estimating the work, building your team and developing a schedule.
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