What is a task-force?
The term came into extensive use originally by the United States Navy around the beginning of 1941, as a way to increase operational flexibility. The fleet itself was divided into division and squadrons. A task force can be assembled using ships from different divisions and squadrons, without requiring a formal and permanent fleet reorganization, and can be easily dissolved following completion of the operational task
Nowadays task-force is something different, no longer using the military speech:
- Small group of 4-12 persons
- With a specific set of skills
- Accomplished for a short term task
- Exits only for specific, time-limited purpose (few day until one year)
- Members often come from different parts of an organization
- A task-forces enhances enhances the project’s chance for success
When to use a task-force?
Task-forces are regularly established in project management when:
- Project confronted with complex or thorny issues
- Solutions require organizational change
- Involving different perspectives often greases the organizational wheels
- Task-forces are especially valuable if their outcome impacts people deeply or emotionally. Or impacts a large part of the organization.
Why do task-forces stumble?
Task-forces stumble mainly due to three different reasons:
- There is no task-force charter given and agreed
- Task-force members are not made to do the work
- Task-forces are too often established and therefore loose their crispiness and dedicated flavor
Task-forces are the strongest kind of team
In all the different approaches to do work with teams, the task-forces are the strongest way to proceed. You have great chances for rapid progress, you have best heads in the team, and good chance for successful outcome. However you also have to face the disadvantages that task-forces distract from regular work, consumes a lot of (company) energy, and it’s working across hierarchies might be taken as anarchic way of action
Especially as in some organizations task-forces are established too often, their effectiveness gets lost quite soon as they become regular.
The task-force charter
The previously mentioned task-force charter should contain the following topics and need to be agreed by everybody engaged into the task-force:
- Purpose and objectives of the task-force
- Roles and responsibilities of the task-force
- Others involved into the task-force (project manages, top management, consultants, etc.)
- A list of tasks and expected work products
- Overall task-force timeline
- Resources which will be made available
How-To successful task-force?
My list of 5 tips to make your task-force successful:
Tip #1 Stand Out
Give you task-force a unique name that it is distinguishable from other ongoing activities. And stick with this name until the end. There’s nothing more worse than renaming the activities without real need.
Tip #2 Start small
Less is beautiful. Take as less persons as possible into the task-force, however as much as needed.
Tip #3 Do operations on a schedule
Give clear structure to your task-force members. These guys needs to concentrate on resolving the issues. A good structure gives them a solid harness they can concentrate on the essentials.
Tip #4 Create and enforce rules
It’s essential that agreed rules are also checked and enforced it they are not followed. Make this point clear in the agreement session. Therefore as less rules as better.
Tip #5 Be a cheerful leader
Laugh and have fun with the guys without loosing your focus on the goals of the task-force. This kind of relaxing and cheerful talk and appearance might decide whether your task-force sustains or gets lost in all day trouble.
The next episodes within this mini-series about Task-Force‘ing
- Launching a task-force
- Running a task-force
- Doing the aftermath of a task-force
If you already have your preferred solution how to prevent being trapped in such projects – let me know. I do appreciate all of your contributions.
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Now I’d love to hear from you:
- What’s your experience with projects running into trouble?
- Do you have a warning sign that I didn’t listed here?
- Or do you wanna agree or disagree with me about these symptoms?