What is a “Task”?

According to Merriam Webster, the basic definition of a task is: “a usually assigned piece of work often to be finished within a certain time, or something hard or unpleasant that has to be done”

Pieces of work happen every day in every company – people do things. Do we like our tasks? Sometimes we do, and sometimes a task is just something that must be done for the common good or to take care of business.

To remember and to do tasks is just “taking care of business”. Sometimes, for some people, these tasks are personally fulfilling, even enjoyable – but much of the time they are not. We don’t need to love our tasks, but we do want to complete them because we like the reward – the result. Or, to put it bluntly, we like our paychecks!

Is there a difference between a task and a project? Or a mission?

A task is something you do now, or soon, something you can finish in one go. In sailing, for example, to raise the mainsail is a task. For a delivery van driver – a task could be to get the parcel to the next stop for delivery. For a controller – maybe the CEO wants this week’s adjusted sales by tomorrow morning – that’s a task.

A project, on the other hand, is a sequence of tasks usually performed by more than one person. Tasks may be connected and may be interdependent. The result of all the tasks together leads to an expected outcome – the desired project goal.

A project could be described as a mission if there are strong personal feelings associated with the process or the result. A project is planned, budgeted, and tracked; a mission is often more loosely defined in those terms. The result of a mission is often inspiring.

Why is a task such an essential item in a company, or any organized, purposeful setting?

 “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” – Mark Twain

A task is the fundamental, elementary item of any organized activity. Sure, there are projects and strategies and organizations – but how does anything get done in a company? One task at a time.

What is not a task? Say you ask someone (a younger member of your household, for example) to do something and they respond with “Yes, I know”.

Well, knowing is not doing, nor is it result-oriented. A task is something that makes an impact (preferably a positive one). So, a task is something people do that produces a result.

Task results may be expected – or unanticipated. Generally speaking, tasks in a company setting are intended to produce a predicted and desired effect and result; but as we know from experience, occasionally something else happens and the outcome deviates from the expectation.

Still, a task is a task, it is about action. In a company, it is usually requested by and possibly promised to another person. Tasks may be time-bound, they may have (sometimes unrealistic) deadlines. There can be too many tasks (creating stress) or too few (causing boredom). Tasks can be monotonous – every day is the same as the last. Or, they can vary greatly – every day is an adventure into the unknown (although such adventures may not be welcome in an operational business).

Tasks are the foundation for results

For Ainolabs all the above is true, even if at times contradictory. The essential, the focus, the elementary particle of company operations is a Task.

Tasks are the “do” part of any operation, and that makes a Task the atomic building block of any business operation.

That is why we talk about Enterprise Task Management.

That is why we focus on the simple, elementary item called a “Task”.

A billion-dollar business starts with a single task.

Published by Aarne


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