Task sequences in a project: differences in manual and digital work

Users of the Last Planner© (project manager, BIM Manager, …), who want to adjust from a manual way of working to a digital way of working, regularly ask me the question: “What happens if the continuous processing of the tasks is interrupted?” This question implies the real problem in the handling of manual work. To answer this question objectively, we must first get to know the starting position of the two working methods.

Definition of task sequence in a project
In a collaborative meeting, the tasks are defined together over a period of up to three months. As a rule, the three months are divided into manageable sections. I describe the manageable sections as a sequence of tasks. In the following picture you can see a possible example of a digital task sequence. (I have omitted a picture example of a manual task sequence.)

Description of manual operation
You meet in the meeting room, and each gets assigned notes in one color by the project leader. They label their sticky notes in short form. They divide the three months into manageable sequences. The sequence is given a milestone with a label. Then they put together on a wall and discuss in which order the work is performed in a task sequence. During the discussion, you then glue the notes to the wall and hang the notes until all of them agree with the order. After that you will find a free space on the wall and take the next task sequence. When you have talked through all the task sequences, you now need to reattach the notes to a calendar on the wall. You should first take pictures of the task sequences. The hanging of the sticky notes could lead to errors in the order. When you reattach the sticky notes, you then bring all the task sequences into the correct order. Please note the dependencies between the tasks of the different sequences. This approach costs a lot of time. Many people prefer to put the task sequences directly on the calendar page. The calendar, however, distracts from the primary task of always placing the tasks in the correct order. When all task sequences are placed, the result must be photographed, and the project leader transfers all tasks, including the expected times, to a digital table. Typically, Microsoft Excel is used. During the meeting, all team members take notes on their tasks. In the end, everyone hopes that their notes will cover the information that the project leader has recorded in his table. It is useful to send a log after the meeting by the project manager with the request for review and correction.

Description of the digital way of working
You meet with your laptops in the meeting room. The project manager uses a laptop with a beamer or large screen or even better a large touchscreen. The digital task lists (cards) are already prepared as templates by the project manager. Each team member can only edit the cards with their assigned color. Then, the three months are divided into meaningful task sequences and the milestones are created. Now the cards are labeled in short form and in a collaborative preview of the milestone graphically pushed back and forth until the task sequence is placed. This scenario is then saved. The project manager then gives each participant the chance to provide additional information to his or her cards. All milestones with all task sequences are automatically placed in a work breakdown structure in the calendar view. There, the milestones can be moved so that the expected processing is consistent for the next three months. No single cards need to be moved. There are no transmission errors.

What happens if the continuous processing of the tasks is interrupted?
Does this change the fundamentally sensible arrangement of the task sequences?

The manual way of working is complicated. An interruption in the processing has two effects. In the short term, you need to see if it is possible to reorganize the current task sequence and compress the process. If this is not feasible, all subsequent task sequences must be moved further into the future. You must then make sure that the order is maintained while the paper is being hung. Only because of the shift, nothing changes in the meaningful arrangement in the respective task sequence and the arrangement of the task sequences among themselves. In addition, the task sequences are not recognizable as a unit. The whole process requires a high concentration of the participants. All participants must also keep an eye on their appointments. Due to the high amount of effort, the likelihood that the first move will already mean a certain concretization in terms of the dates increases. In the following picture you can see an example of several task sequences of a project. Each blue bar corresponds to a task sequence.

With the digital way of working, you do the shift of a complete task sequence with a mouse click on the milestone. Even a multiple move is not expensive. Their full concentration lies in rearranging all the task sequences and not on a single card. No one must take notes, because the original dates are noted as a note in the milestone for everyone to see. In the meeting, you will quickly be able to talk about the actual current problem and can focus on compressing the subsequent task sequence. Problems in the processing of task sequences can always occur. With a digital working method, you act faster and more agile.

If you would like to work with digital task sequences, then you are welcome to contact me.

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