Who Cares About Tasks?

Dan Patterson

Dan is a globally recognized project analytics thought leader and software entrepreneur. With 20 years of experience and multiple highly successful Project Portfolio Management (PPM) software companies under his belt, Dan was the founder of Acumen (now part of Deltek) and is the inventor of Acumen Fuse, 360 and Acumen Risk.

Wouldn't it be better if scheduling tools focused on deliverables rather than the work — the activities and tasks — needed to deliver them? Execution is about creating value, and stakeholders care little about the busy details. Project managers who get this distinction right will reap the benefits of more realistic and achievable plans.

My best friend and I meet up once every year and we invariably end up chatting about our mutual passion for project planning. His view is a little extreme but one with enough merit to warrant discussion: “Ban activities and tasks from scheduling tools…” he says. For those of you who use scheduling tools such as Microsoft Project or similar, you will know this is verging on project planning blasphemy.

The whole underpinning of a project schedule relies on activities or tasks tied together with what are known as logic links so as to establish some sort of underlying time sequence. “Oh ditch those too while we are at it…” he adds. Is he crazy? Well yes a little, but his reasoning is interesting.

Project execution is ultimately about delivering or creating something (value). The way we do that is to conduct work. Progress on work is modeled using the core building blocks in a scheduling tool, including activities and logic links. This is where it all starts to fall apart. …

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I lie every second of the day. My whole life has been a sham.

- George Costanza