Simple task breakdown

Breaking down a large task into manageable sub tasks using a simple visual approach.

Published on 
3 min, 437 words

Categories: work

We needed to plan the work for the next quarter for the infrastructure team and in doing so came up with a simple way to breakdown the work.

There is a lot of potential work the team could be doing but it needs to align with the focus of the company. The first step was to identify the potential areas that were aligned. We came up with four main streams of work. Nothing that interesting so far ...

We took one of those streams of work and then brainstormed what deliverables this might involve. At this point we went broad and ignored the three month timescale - this was about capturing ideas at this point.

For this exercise we used Miro as it effectively provides an infinite whiteboard that we can stick post it notes to (and much more). This exercise could also be done with normal post it notes. For the task we were looking at this produced about 45 notes and took only about 15 minutes - all of us adding notes at the same time.

We next started organising them into themes or features; some were obvious, some had dependencies and some required more clarification. We drew lines to show the relationships between them.

Once we had this rough outline and the clusters we could see there were potentially a lot of tasks and not all of them were relevant or achievable in the timescale, so we now had to reduce them to a manageable number.

We identified four categories of notes and introduced a colour to represent each of them:

  • Green - Must Have
  • Orange - Nice to Have
  • Pink - One day
  • Yellow - Not relevant

We worked through each of the notes and colour coded them based on the above.

Once we had this, it was a relatively simple task to extract just those coloured green. We were also able to very roughly order them in terms of delivery. This is what we ended up with.

In less than an hour we had identified the main streams of work and broken down the first of these streams into tasks. We will be doing the other streams over the next few days.

Update: In a subsequent run through we added an additional note type - a question. If we needed clarification at some point we could capture it as a question and discuss it at the relevant point.