Let’s stop tracking tasks and enable conversations instead!

While it seems obvious that projects need to be broken down into tasks and assignees, sometimes that's not quite right. How about trying something else?

There is an important question to answer when using digital tools like Trello or Klaro Cards. While they invite you to create digital cards, you have to decide what the cards represent in the real world. This is because everything else depends on that decision: process efficiency; quality of your team discussions; etc.

In practice, most early demos I do with new users look like this:

  • [You] I'd like to follow the status of our various projects, break them down them into tasks, be able to know who's working on what, and set statuses and due dates.
  • [Me] Sure.

Then we jump in Klaro:

  1. We add two types of cards, Project and Task, and a link between them.
  2. We set up a couple of dimensions: Progress, Assignee and Due Date.
  3. I show how various boards can be used to view the process, as well as to initiate or anchor team conversations about incoming due dates, team workload, etc.

And it works fine, of course. But inevitably a question is raised:

  • Let’s say that the team's writing a report, and that I've just finished my task "Write chapter 3". Should I move it to Done and create a new task called « Review chapter 3 », and assign it to my colleague? Or should I rephrase the existing card and keep it in the Ongoing column?
  • Well, both can work but… you feel that it's an awkward and inefficient way to do things, don’t you?
  • Yes…
  • That’s because you shouldn’t have a task called "Write chapter 3" in the first place. You probably shouldn’t be tracking tasks.
  • Instead, how about naming the card "Chapter 3" and having columns like To write, Writing, Review and Ready, as a way to track progress?

So we jump back in Klaro Cards and do the change (it just take 5 minutes).

Why is that better?

Let’s think about it. Digital tools can really help you track who does what, progress, due dates, etc. They do this way better than Excel - you should be using them for this!

At Klaro Cards, we also think that digital tools should facilitate effective Team Conversations. In our example, anchoring the conversation to the team’s goal (e.g. the report to be eventually written) seems way better than having it tied to individual tasks.

Said otherwise, a conversation like this:

We have 7 ongoing Tasks, 3 assigned to Julie, and 12 still to be started.

will always be less effective than:

Chapters 4 & 7 are written, good job. Chapter 3 is almost done; we need someone to review it, how about Julie? Let’s leave working on the Introduction, Chapter 1, for the very end. Marc can start Chapter 2 next week, …

It seems like a simple mindset shift, and it is. However, it requires two ingredients:

  • Acting as a team and having rich conversations, instead of ordering work and controlling people
  • Knowing other ways to break down work other than into tasks

Both are hugely important topics, but that's for another blog post.

To close this blog post in this most helpful way, I should say that our Klaro consultants can really help you think through your work processes and team tracking methods such as the example given above. It all begins with your first demo!