Steven Souther

Author Archives: Steven Souther

Steven Souther is the creator of the Lagility Method. When he's not developing outstanding task methods & tools, he explores the underwater world of the seas. Learn more

When do you release your Tasks

Tasks need to be released at the correct time, to the proper resource, and be confirmed to be successful.

This article presents 3 essential steps that are needed — before the Tasks are started. 

1.    Task Scoping & Definition

The high-level work breakdown structure (WBS) created during the planning stage a of a project is usually sufficient to create preliminary task definitions.

Regardless of who creates them, (and I’ve seen Program Managers as well as Schedulers create them), preliminary definitions are insufficient for work to be started on the Tasks.

After a preliminary definition is created, the next step is to have a resource, who is a good candidate for the task, confirm the Task definition.

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Proper Task Scoping — Early Finish

Do your Tasks finish late? If so, there is a high probability that they are improperly scoped.

My last article discussed how to properly create task definitions. Since task scoping directly effects the task definition, this article discusses Task Scope — that is to say, just how much work is defined by a single task.

Over the years I’ve observed that tasks tend to be over-scoped — they have way too much packed into them. I also find that when they are over-scoped, they tend to finish late. Interestingly, they are not late because the scope of work is large — they are late because too many individuals are responsible for their completion.

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Task definitions underpin the entire Project

Show me a project that lacks task clarity and I’ll show you a failed project.

I have participated in hundreds of “Lessons Learned” project closure sessions. As you might expect, the greatest interest and attendance at these sessions is when a project fails. Everyone wants to know what happened, how to prevent future failure, and for some — who to blame.

In all cases I am able to trace the failure back to a single common root problem — poor task definition.

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Multitasking Devastation

Most of the companies I work with have projects with tasks that need to be worked by a single department, group, or individual.  An example of this is a department of technical writers, or an individual with a highly specialized skill.

It is common for these single points of work effort to become bottlenecks. Contention for limited resources creates an environment where individuals are pressured to work on multiple tasks and projects at the same time. 

The effect of this “multitasking” is devastating.  It creates contention between managers competing for limited resources, disappointment in the performance of the resource working the task, and delays in all the tasks being multitasked.

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Resource Motivation — the drive needed to accomplish tasks

Resource Motivation

I have surveyed hundreds of project managers around the world and found resource motivation to be their number one frustration. Most resources have sufficient skills to accomplish their tasks. So why do so many resources perform poorly?

There are many reasons. Certainly the greatest control managers have is over their own individual behavior. I find that managers can significantly improve resource motivation. Even more, I believe it is the responsibility of the manager to do so.Due to the predominance of this frustration, I wrote this article. It presents methods for managers to significantly improve their resource motivation.

Resource Motivation

There are many benefits to motivated resources. Most noteworthy is that resources are simply more successful with their tasks when motivated. So considering this, the wise manager takes responsibility for nurturing resource motivation.It’s important to understand that motivation is an emotion—not a skill. Each resource has their own unique circumstances, backgrounds and experiences. Because of this, resources have different motivation needs.Resource self-esteem and self-worth are important for resource motivation. Resources need to feel safe and accepted when working. In addition, they need to feel that their team cares about their needs.As a task or project manager, resource motivation is your challenge and responsibility. So the good news is — you can create an environment that fosters resource motivation.

Resource Preparation

First of all, realize that your emotional state will affect your resource’s motivation to work with you. Also, keep in mind that they have an inherent desire to grow, improve, and do their job well.


Task managers need to foster a productive work environment to support resource motivation. Certainly resources need to understand their tasks in the context of whole project. Be sure they know where their task fits within the project. Your resource needs to know who is dependent on them. Because of this, you need to make sure they know everyone they affect with their task.


It is important that your resource fully understands their task. While it seems so basic, many resources do not. So make sure that your resource is provided a well written definition of the task. The definition should include a unique name, description, and definition of done.


Confirm that your resource fully understands the assignment. Ask them if they do. Also ask them how they “feel” about the assignment. Probe to determine if there are any obstacles preventing success with the task.

Confirmation strengthens resource motivation. Furthermore, your resource will observe you doing all you can to address their needs to be successful.

Daily Reinforcement

You need to demonstrate your commitment to the success of your resource. Provide a daily opportunity for them to report their inhibitors. Inhibitors are anything  slowing  down progress on the task. Likewise, request reports on anything that has the potential to become an inhibitor.When reported, acknowledge the inhibitors and discuss them with your resource. Work together to determine a plan to remove and prevent all inhibitors. Also, be sure to provide frequent status to on your efforts to remove inhibitors. As you do this resource motivation will significantly increase.


There are times you will need to coach your resource. An example is when you find your resource on a course that might fail or cause a problem. When this happens, you need to intervene as a coach.Above all you need to encourage your resource as you coach. Work with them to find what caused them to get off course. Ask questions to help your resource find a better way. Never blame, but rather work with them to find solutions. As you do this, you build resource motivation.

Closing Points

  • Motivation provides important drive to accomplish tasks
  • Resources give their best when motivated
  • Resource motivation is an emotion—not a skill
  • Always treat your resource with respect
  • Demonstrate trust, removed inhibitors, and empower your resource
  • Recognize and acknowledge resource accomplishments
  • Provide clear and frequent communication
  • Coach and encourage rather than blame
  • Resources have an inherent desire to grow and improve

Related Article:  Delegation—5 techniques that will get you excellent results!

Daily task estimates – the key to delivering on schedule

Task Estimates

Task estimates must be accurate to achieve project success.  Most of all they effect the budget and schedule of a project.  Currently worldwide, 7 out of 10 projects fail.  And they fail because they are over budget, or finish late.  This is tragic, not to mention expensive.

The good news is project managers can overcome these problems.  The solution is to create excellent task estimates.  This article focuses on Execution Task Estimates, including how to use them effectively.

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Delegation—5 techniques that will get you excellent results!

I recently surveyed professional projects managers from 54 countries and they all reported that their resources are a major source of concern. Perhaps you can relate to the frustration—their resources:

  • Lack enthusiasm and do not take responsibility
  • Do not report inhibitors and cause tasks to be late 
  • Deprioritize the tasks or quit working them without notification
  • Take more time than needed just to fill the allotted time
  • Do not understand tasks and wait for instruction

And perhaps you have experienced this: Your leadership assigns you a project with the usual constraints including scope, budget, and schedule—and you are expected to make it happen.  So, you pull together the best team of resources you can hoping, that they will deliver what is expected, on time, and with quality.

If you are experiencing any of these challenges, the good new is it can be better, much better—you can significantly improve the performance of your resources and have confidence they will delivery you as you have planned. This article explains several simple techniques you can implement right now that will greatly increase your success. Simple things that, amazingly, few project managers do…

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