It’s a surprisingly common occurrence that a project manager specifies a task as complete only to see more time, materials, and expenses charged to it the next week. Naturally, this is a frustrating situation.
Of course, we want the task to be complete and we thus are motivated to check it off a soon as possible. There are often administrative and closing tasks that need to be performed after a task is perceived to be complete.
There are several remedies to this problem:
- Specify completion criteria
- Measure completion criteria
- Force task sign-offs
Specify Task Completion Criteria
It is not difficult to specify completion criteria in your task list. For example, a driveway construction project’s task list might look like this:
|Task No.||Name||Dependencies||Subcontractor||Completion Criteria|
|120||Build Forms||110||Jon’s Concrete||All forms ready for concrete pouring|
|130||Place Rebar||110||Jon’s Concrete||All rebar ready for concrete pouring|
|210||Pour Concrete||120, 130||Jon’s Concrete||Concrete finishing complete|
|310||Setting & Curing||210||Ready for traffic|
|320||Strip Forms||310||Tools and Equipment put away|
If you need more than a few words this can be separated out within the project management plan.
Common tasks that need to be performed after a task has been perceived to be complete are:
- Final details documentation.
- Administrative (forms filled out, mailings).
- Government agency notifications.
- Stakeholder reviews.
- Technical records documentation.
- Documents filed away.
- Electronic filings made.
- Clean up of work areas.
Measure Completion Criteria
It is not enough to have completion criteria specified, they need to be actively measured and approved. Imagine the situation where a task is labelled as complete only to have a client request a walkthough. Then they find problems, but they don’t tell you because they want to talk it over with their colleagues and they only inform you weeks later after you’ve attempted to get them to sign off.
In order to claim the task is complete, these completion criteria need to be measured. Are the final details complete? Have all the walkthoughs been done by the client?
Force Task Sign-offs
An effective way to ensure tasks don’t run on is to force a project team member to sign-off that the task is complete and no more time will be charged to it.
Often time & expense software systems can “close off” a task to ensure that no time is charged. But this is a fallacy. If project team members still need to perform more closing tasks and are not allowed to charge them to that task, they will charge it to another task. Or to administration. Or to another project altogether. None of these options are good.
There is no shortcut or special rules here. The only way to prevent the endless of charging of time to tasks is to finish them.