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Key objective

Keep taskforce work on track through effective project management. 

Common problems

  • Not having any project management! This leaves you vulnerable to missed deadlines, criticism from decision-makers and inefficient use of staff
  • Having an inconsistent approach to project management – this will create confusion and diminish the value of project management altogether
  • 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.

Tips for success

  • Have project management in place from the very beginning – this provides assurance to your decision-makers as well as certainty and structure for the team
  • Assign project management responsibilities to a single person or team in your taskforce to support taskforce rhythm and keep things on track
  • Use project management to identify and mitigate risks – this will prevent risks from derailing work, and keep the taskforce on track.

Handy tools

Project management gives assurance that everything is on track

Project management is essential to the success of a taskforce. It ensures that key milestones and deliverables are mapped out, with timeframes to achieve each task allocated and monitored. Project management will help you plan for the staff you need, the stakeholders you need to consult (including external experts), and give assurance to those involved with the taskforce that everything is on track.

While it's important to choose a project management approach that works for your taskforce, there are key elements that are essential regardless of the method used:

  • a clear scope of work that outlines the key deliverables and timeframes
  • a workplan that identifies the tasks required to complete those deliverables within the timeframe
  • a mechanism for monitoring tasks
  • a person or team responsible for project management that can monitor progress and manage resources to keep the taskforce on track.

Project management approaches

Agile

One type of project management you might like to use is Agile, which is an approach to problem solving and project management that empowers teams to improve the quality and speed of delivery with frequent communication and collaboration. Agile is an iterative project management approach which drives process by working on ideas and products early and testing and refining them to increase value and impact of the final product. Key features of the agile approach are:

  • using a 'kanban' board to manage tasks – larger tasks are broken down into smaller parts and allocated or picked up by members of the team to progress from to do, doing and done
  • sprint planning – identifying the goals for the week or fortnight ahead and the tasks that need to be completed to achieve those goals
  • short (10-15 minute) daily stand ups – these provide an opportunity for quick check-ins on the progress of tasks in each sprint
  • 'retrospectives' – an opportunity for the team to reflect on what went well or didn't work so well, and identify actions to take forward, fostering continuous improvement. The taskforce retrospective guide will take you through the steps of an effective retro.

The Agile Policy Playbook provides more information on applying agile techniques to taskforces and projects.

Image caption: Agile Policy Playbook

Traditional

Alternatively, you may prefer to apply traditional project management approaches that follow a linear process from start to finish. Traditional project methods are often described as “waterfall” because of the sequential phases that work passes through before reaching final status, compared to the ‘iterative’ approach of agile, where the final product is worked on throughout the project lifecycle. Traditional project management approaches can provide a greater degree of confidence in the final deliverable, as the entire project is planned upfront with limited scope for changing requirements; the downside is that later stages can’t begin until those preceding it are completed, which can make it difficult to rectify issues if they arise, or if the direction of the project needs to change.

Which approach should I use?

Either type of approach – agile or traditional – can be effective when applied and followed correctly. Considerations such as the complexity of the taskforce’s work, need for adaptability and feedback requirements should factor in to your decisions on project management approach.

Project management will also help to identify and manage risks

The benefit of having project management in place with a defined workplan is that it will help to identify any policy or project-based risks that may affect the taskforce's ability to complete deliverables, enabling swift action to mitigate these risks and keep the taskforce on track. For example, this may include identification of:

  • a key governance meeting not being arranged to review a deliverable before its deadline
  • insufficient resources being allocated to complete a task by a given date
  • a critical piece of work not being captured or allocated in the workplan.

Project management is an effective way of mitigating the risk of missing deadlines for key deliverables. Depending on the size and complexity of the taskforce, a comprehensive risk assessment should be completed using the host agency's risk management framework.

Last reviewed: 
3 March 2021