Skip to main content

Breaking Bigger Actions Into Simple Tasks

Now that the working year seems to be back into full swing I have already had two conversations with client member's of staff about feeling overwhelmed with their continuous improvement projects.

I think we always hope that a short (Christmas) break from work will leave us relaxed when we come back to work, but as the effect seems to last about fifteen seconds the people I spoke to needed another strategy to help with this issue.

Thankfully there is a simple, and well used, approach to dealing with this issue - breaking larger actions (or even projects) into smaller and better defined tasks.

This may increase the total number of tasks on your project plan or to-do list, which is a common complaint I hear about this approach. You will, of course, also be able to knock these extra items off more quickly and so they won't be hanging around for long.

One of my other clients had a similar issue with their continuous improvement action logs. Good ideas were generated and documented for completing later. The problem they faced was that when they got back to complete these mini-projects they looked too large to squeeze into their working day and procrastination set in. When we discussed this observation they also said that they didn't know what to do with the action. By breaking the actions down into sub-actions (or, creating a proper plan with small steps in it) they could then see a way forward; actions were duly taken and progress was made.

Better definition of each step also aids you to get a better end result. A little more thought that goes into each step can certainly help when it comes to completing the tasks and achieving the overall project / task.

If you have larger tasks to undertake, that you aren't getting around to, then it is worth taking even just a few minutes to try and break them down into sub-tasks and thinking through a little more about what needs to happen to complete each one. This is especially true if you are feeling overwhelmed and need to make progress fast.



Giles Johnston
Author of Business Process Re-Engineering

Popular posts from this blog

Where there is a (performance) gap there is a concern

I had a really good day yesterday working with a client's team.

The team has issues. Plenty of issues. Some are managerial issues, some are people issues and some are production issues.

When I first met the team they didn't know what to do with their issues, so I started by helping them to see more issues.

Issues everywhere, they didn't seem very impressed.

And then we captured the issues as 'concerns' into the tried and tested 'concern cause countermeasure' format and followed the process:

Concerns probed for root causes and root causes converted into countermeasures.
Soon they realised that some of their root causes dealt with numerous concerns and they gained momentum.

Yesterday we pulled another one of their processes apart and identified all of the gaps. The gaps became concerns and we fed them back into the process. Now they have a practical action plan (of countermeasures) to upgrade the process in question.

What do you do with your performance gaps? …

Continuous Improvement and the Five Legged Race

Many improvement projects need the buy in of several people before they can progress. Amongst these people there will be some that have a firm view of what needs to happen and are keen to make progress. Some of the people won't be sure and they will need more time. Other people might not be that interested and have other priorities they want to focus on.

None of this is wrong.

It is an observation of mine and one that I see repeat on a regular basis with the businesses that I come into contact with.

But, if we take the principle from the observation we have an interesting improvement strategy (one that I personally use when I get stuck with my client's improvement projects).

You might have worked out the approach from the title of this blog post, but it is analogous to a three-legged race (or four, five, nine...). If someone in the group moves in the wrong direction and / or at the wrong speed then the whole group falls over.


In the example I gave at the start it is no differe…

Do you have time to prepare (in order to become super productive)?

I had a funny conversation a few weeks ago with a team that was complaining about one of their colleagues spending 'ages' preparing their workstation within their factory. I meet a lot of people that spend too long preparing (and effectively procrastinating) so I was intrigued by their comment. It turns out that this individual didn't spend too long but rather his colleagues dived into their work without thinking through what the best way to work was...

The slower to start gentleman did in fact prepare his work area. He was also able to produce a far greater amount of work in the same time period because he had invested in a smarter way of working than his counterparts. The time spent preparing his working area was valuable and not overdone.

This example reminds us of the importance of the second S in 5S (set in order) and how workstation design is critical if we want to maximise the productivity of our teams. Whether this is a physical work area in a factory, the filing s…