How to Avoid Task Dependency Hell
By Alec Clews
A rather obvious point really, but often teams and organisations stagnate in a cesspit of inactivity because everything depends on something else, which of course also depends on something else. Soon it feels as if nothing can be done and everything is delayed waiting for someone else to do something.
There are two answers. The quick fix and the long term management of work.
The answer is to “Just do it”. Break the work in hand down into smaller pieces and find something that does not have a dependency, then do it! Repeat as required.
If you can’t find anything without a dependency then work around and do the best you can without needing the dependency
Long Term Answer
- ‘Design’ work as a set of loosely coupled activities with small, well considered, dependencies. Of course the activities need to be coherent and internally cohesive.
- Make sure you document and track your tasks and the tasks you assign to others.
- When the dependencies get too complicated then package the work up into large bundles that can stand alone; re-examine the package as a whole and start attacking the work by ‘nibbling’ at the edges. Apply the ‘Quick Fix’ if needed.
At this point any analogy to software design breaks down. In software we are better off having simpler tasks (objects) and more dependencies (interactions). However for activity management we often (but not always) need to lean the other way. Providing our tasks are basically coherent then we can make each chunk of work bigger if it helps reduce the dependencies between activities.
This approach scales to teams and larger groups. The more we can package work into independent projects and just get on with them the better. If our work is not perfect because of a missing dependency we are still better off anyway because at least we have started to break the logjam.
Alec has over twenty five years in software: managing development and implementation projects; consulting; design work and programming. Alec is unusual because he can manage wider project issues whilst still remaining very technical.
Alec’s blog can be found at http://alecthegeek.wordpress.com/
No comments yet.