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Starting work before you have set some clear boundaries around the scope of the problem you are trying to solve.

Set aside time at the start to properly understand the issue the taskforce will address and test this with key stakeholders. Fully scope the work of the taskforce based on the defined problem (note: this should ideally be done before drafting the terms of reference).

Investing in deliverables that are not needed to meet the overall objective, resulting in wasted time and effort.

Use your problem definition to determine your essential deliverables, so that the work of the taskforce is driving towards a targeted resolution for the identified problem.

Having a poorly drafted terms of reference that's vague, ambiguous and doesn't specify what the taskforce will do and how it will do it, leading to confusion about roles and responsibilities, a lack of direction for team members and unmet expectations from stakeholders.

Your terms of reference is an articulation of your scope; take the time to fully scope the work of the taskforce and clearly capture this in the terms of reference so that the work of the taskforce is understood by key stakeholders.




Failing to build and maintain relationships – or adapt to changes in leadership or priorities – within your authorising environment, which could leave you without support or buy-in at critical moments.

Engage early with key governance stakeholders and seek guidance on how they’d like to be involved throughout the process, then stay regularly engaged through both formal and informal status updates.

Not setting clear roles and responsibilities for the stakeholders involved in your governance arrangements, including failing to distinguish between advisory and decision-making roles, leading to confusion and unmet expectations.

Ensure the governance structure is clear and documented, including who has decision making authority versus who has an advisory role. Your governance arrangements should be tailored based on your timeframes, scope and deliverables.

Scheduling meetings without first defining the outcome required, resulting in lost opportunities to progress your work with decision-makers.

Use your deadlines to drive work forward and book governance meetings in early so that you can get the decisions and advice you need, when you need it, and keep records of decisions made.

Staffing and leadership



Sending out a blanket request for staff without specifying the skills or roles needed to achieve taskforce objectives, resulting in a team with the wrong skill mix or a lack of critical subject matter expertise. Agencies may also send their ‘representatives’ (usually EL2s), resulting in a structure that is too top heavy.

Use your scope to define your deliverables, then determine the mix of skills and levels you need to deliver your objectives, and specify these in your request for staff or EOI.

Having staff who may not be the right fit for the taskforce work and environment.

Conduct informal interviews of staff that have been nominated by other agencies, or that have been shortlisted through an EOI process, and build in a review or trial period.

Taking a ‘set and forget’ approach to your taskforce structure, leading to it not being fit for purpose as priorities shift, which can cause an unequal distribution of work as well as gaps and overlaps.

Stay flexible and agile – you may need to change your team structure as the nature of work shifts throughout the life of the taskforce. Ensure accountability for completion of tasks and deliverables and have open communication to address barriers or gaps when they arise.

Not setting aside time for team building and agreeing ways of working; staff don't get to know each other’s work preferences, skills and experience and don't build rapport, which can limit morale, effectiveness and team cohesion.

Establish ways of working and team norms that foster a positive and safe work environment; this will enhance productivity and create a shared sense of purpose for the team. Co-locating staff will go a long way to keeping the team connected and engaged.

Project management



Ineffective project management, leaving you vulnerable to missed deadlines, criticism from decision-makers and inefficient use of staff.

Create a workplan and have consistent project management in place from the very beginning – this provides assurance to your decision-makers as well as certainty and structure for the team.

Lack of ownership of project management responsibility, resulting in no follow-up or accountability to ensure tasks are done and increasing the risk of missed deliverables.

Assign project management responsibilities to a person or team in your taskforce to support taskforce rhythm and keep things on track.

Not regularly checking in with teams and updating the workplan to ensure work is on track.

Ensure your workplan is a living document that is regularly reviewed and updated by the team – this will help drive a delivery focus. The workplan should be highly visible and accessible, in a format that works for the whole team.

Stakeholder engagement



Not having a clear plan or purpose to stakeholder engagement from the beginning.

Identify and map your stakeholders based on their interest in and influence on taskforce objectives, then determine the issues on which you need stakeholder input and develop strategies for engagement.

Taskforce administration



Underestimating the administrative workload and time it takes to set up and wind down taskforces.

Ensure you allow time at both the beginning and conclusion of a taskforce to establish administration arrangements, like allowing a few days between requesting building access and starting work.

Not having a dedicated administrative support person from the beginning, resulting in SES and EL staff spending time on administrative tasks instead of core work.

Have a dedicated administrative support person from the beginning – this should ideally be someone from the host agency who knows how ‘things are done’ and can navigate processes quickly and smoothly.

Not implementing recordkeeping and documentation practices and processes from day one, resulting in difficulties later down the track when responding to enquiries, information requests and audits.

Have good records management in place from the very beginning of the taskforce, especially procedures for recording decisions and governance outcomes.

Closure and handover



Failing to engage with the policy/BAU/implementation team throughout the taskforce process to plan for the ongoing delivery of the taskforce's objectives – this risks missing key implementation insights, as well as losing buy-in from the BAU team for successful implementation.

Have an implementation focus from the very beginning – build early relationships with the implementation team to bring them along on the journey and facilitate a smooth handover at the end of the taskforce.

Failing to plan for closure and handover – a rushed and untidy end to the taskforce risks your work not being taken forward by the BAU team, creating an unsatisfactory experience for your team as well as your stakeholders if their contributions don't lead to an outcome.

Have a dedicated wrap-up plan, and set aside at least a week at the end of the taskforce to tie up all loose ends and provide a comprehensive handover.

Not allowing time for winding down the taskforce, leaving a significant body of work for the 'last person standing'.

Allocate time towards the end of the taskforce, before staff have departed, to undertake closure and handover activities. This should include supporting the transition of secondees back to their home area, doing a retrospective and preparing records for future briefing or audit requirements.

Last reviewed: 
1 February 2021