How to avoid Task Dependencies from going Wrong in 7 Easy Steps

April 29, 2020

Benjamin Franklin understood that time is the most precious resource when managing a project. That’s probably because he knows a thing or two about deadlines. 

He famously said: 

 “You may delay, but time will not.” 

His project? Get the Declaration of Independence signed before the English set foot on the American shores. If there ever was a deadline…

Which is exactly why Gantt Charts are so highly valued in the world of project management. They offer the opportunity to get a good idea about your projects timeline in a very visual way. One glimpse will tell you all you need to know from a bird’s eye perspective. 

And they are master tools in helping you manage deadlines at the cut of the knife. But one of the common ways Gantt Charts don’t work is because of issues with the Task Dependencies that are involved. 

7 Steps to avoid task dependency disasters

Which brings us to the question: The best way to make sure you have all the tasks listed, is to not rely on your own insight alone, but to have a team workshop. But what else can you do to make sure you don’t meet with a task dependency disaster? 

  • Step 1: Considering that task dependencies are the links between the different project tasks, it is self-explanatory that getting the task list right is a prerequisite to getting the dependencies right. Understanding how these tasks relate to each other is the next step. 
  • Step 2: The most common dependency is when one task depends on the finish of another task. This will be the case for the vast majority of dependencies, making these tasks sequential. For instance, you can’t demo the project you are working on until you have finished the demo model. Sometimes a project depends on a task performed by a contractor or a supplier. For example, you may be waiting on the delivery of the fabric for a sofa before you can actually start the upholstering. These are all called internal dependencies, but you also have to factor in external dependencies. Think about the example of a sub-contracting plumbing team that is currently working on another building site and needs that to finish before they become available for your building project. What’s annoying about external dependencies is that as a project manager, you don’t have an awful lot of control over them. Good communication is crucial in handling external dependencies. Our top tip: Establish lines and frequency of communication at the start of the project.
  • Step 3: It always pays to think creatively about whether two tasks need to follow each other in a sequential order. Being able to run a task in parallel saves a heck of a lot of time on the project and subsequently also on the project. 
  • Step 4: Make sure a system is in place to keep regular track of how the dependencies are going. If you can’t do it yourself, appoint someone who is responsible for this and really hold them to this responsibility. If a task will be delayed, so will the task that is dependent on it. The result is that in all likelihood the project will be delayed and that is something you want to find out sooner rather than later. After all, if you know early enough, you have time to make adjustments. 
  • Step 5: This is also the time when you consider risk management. What are the chances of things going wrong, what would be the impact and what can we do about it? 
  • Step 6: Enter the dependencies in the project management system. 
  • Step 7: Review the project schedule at the beginning of each week at the very least, but preferably on a daily basis. As the project progresses, add and delete tasks, update and adjust dependencies, and the project management system will adjust the schedule accordingly.