How to write clear Task descriptions to guide your team

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Daily Communication Challenges at Tasks

Do you face a lot of struggles with your team, when delegating and writing tasks on your project management tool? Managers have limited time to invest in writing descriptions, that’s true. And teams are learning they need to become more and more autonomous. Even so, do you still feel it is hard to be understood when you dedicate time to writing tasks?

Why can’t people just deduce or search for what looks so evident to you?

“Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.” George Orwell.

Some Team Communication Principles

So, there are a few factors you must consider when writing tasks.

First of all, before thinking of your message (the Task), you must consider your audience – that means your team. You might coordinate a small team, or a large multi-cultural squad with people who work in very different professions and regions. In any case, there will always be some level of communication and language challenge. It just could grow more complex.

Notice, when we say “language” here, we are not talking about your mother tongue. We’re talking about your cultural references, your knowledge, your usual language, technical vocabulary and the references each tribe is able to comprehend. It’s 100% possible that two people speak English, but they use slangs or their niche glossary in Task references and find it hard to communicate.

So, of course, there is no magic formula to implement universal communication. However, yes, there are some good practices that can help you avoid misunderstandings.

Best practices to write clearly and engage your team:

  • Tell your team, in advance, they must research unknown acronyms and names, behave autonomously about Tasks, adopt a “go getter” attitude;
  • Avoid unnecessary slangs, unless you work in a small team and you’re sure everyone knows them;
  • Direct technical language only to the professionals who use it (programmers’ vocabulary to programmers);
  • Define the target language and format of the Task, if it’s not the same one you are using to communicate on the Board (e.g., “write a text in German”);
  • In case you didn’t establish a standard so far, mention where and how you expect to receive the Task, besides the due date (for example: “the samples must be saved in our Project Documents, within the Task given date”).

Tips to Write Clear Task Descriptions

Introduction

Help the responsible team members to understand the Task, by describing its context. The context includes what the Task is about, and why it has to exist. Tell them the reason for creating it, how this Task will contribute to the Project. Finally, tell them what they must do. All this will help them to understand the Task, and feel motivated to do it well.

Mention related Tasks and actions

Telling the Task history is important. That means if there are other related tasks, if it is an unprecedented Task. Even in this case, you can mention previous conversations/event(s) you had with the top management, which led to the Task creation. This is also part of the Task context and helps the assigned team member understand it. It’s particularly important when it’s more than a trivial Task, but something you want him/her to dedicate special attention to.

Use References

Including references is the most direct resource you can use in a Task, besides the text description itself. You have numerous possibilities to guide your team and help them better understand how to execute a Task:

  • Benchmarking and include URL links about what your competitors are doing;
  • Include URL links with interesting media reports concerning the Task theme;
  • Embed Youtube videos to inspire the Task execution;
  • Include document attachments, like specific guides and manuals;
  • Insert relevant reference images – pictures, illustrations and charts.
Create Task Checklists or SubTasks

When you have a Task that’s a little more complex or extensive, it’s recommended to organize it, by creating a Task Checklist or including subtasks under the main Task. This way, it will be easier for the assigned team member(s) to report you their accomplishments, as long as they finish them. It works better than considering all the Task as a whole, because you can track its progress gradually.

Furthermore, it is also more didactic and motivating for team members to “win” steps and understand them sooner, than having to complete them all together only in the end.

Compare an example and see which one looks the best:

Example 1 - Full Task

“Organize Company Event: book location, hire musicians, prepare invitations, control rsvp, parking, hire catering, hire waiters, check fire/safety, sound/light, partnerships, budget $3,500.”

Example 2 - Task Description with Task Checklist

“Organize Company Event: plan 2022 opening event for 50 people (collaborators and top clients).
Style: informal/executive happy hour (19h)
– book location (with catering, waiters, parking);
– check fire/safety
– hire musicians
– prepare invitations (image)
– control rsvp (whatsapp)
– sound/light
– partnerships (decor, gifts)
Total budget $ 3,500.”

Resources

Whenever it’s possible, inform the list of necessary resources and tools for the Task to be accomplished.

If there are credentials or legal issues involved, you should indicate the way to obtain them, to learn or study and become enabled to accomplish the Task. If other people already did the same Task in the past and could share valuable learning, you could help by mentioning them or informing the standard procedures.

Anticipate these data and avoid the need for collaborators to ask you and save time.

Suggestions and Examples

You can include suggestions, which means you are giving some freedom and space for the team member to analyze the Task and consider the ways to do the Task. This means the suggestions are to be considered, not ‘must have’ items. Most team members enjoy having the opportunity to create and innovate, at the same time that suggestions give them a hint of what kind of actions you expect from them.

In this way, you can consider the suggestions are not necessarily specific instructions of what they must do, but guidelines of what type of thing they must do. They give “the tone” of the Task and facilitate your communication.

You can give suggestions with references and examples, like this:

Example - Task Description with Example and Reference

“Task: Write a text about our brand. (2 pages and 1/2 page versions);
Suggestion: follow emotional approach, story-telling style like the Lego example below
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdDU_BBJW9Y “

Indicate support

Let the team member know who to look after, in case he/she needs technical support for the Task. Does it sound obvious? It’s not always so! Some Tasks are specific and involve suppliers or people who were once in charge of it in previous editions. You can also save time by mentioning who the responsible worker must get in touch with.

Mention mandatory, desirable and optional items

Task descriptions are usually proportional to their complexity. So, in case you are writing a description for a complex Task, you can consider including these items as a form of organizing your requests and keeping flexibility.

Example - Task Description with Optional Items

Task: Write a text about our company brand.
Mandatory: Mention date/location founded, talk about today’s users.
Desirable: Talk about the person(s) who inspired it.
Optional/suggestion: Mention the brand social projects.

Leave priorities clear

Your Task description must be enough for your team member(s) to identify the Task priorities at once and execute them. If you prefer, in some cases, you can choose to describe your Task or Sub-Tasks already in a priority order, showing how the team member(s) must do them. This will make the Task understanding super clear and fast. However, this format is only recommended when you consider there is only one reasonable order to execute the Task. Otherwise, you would limit your workers’ freedom to decide what to do first and reduce team’s autonomy.

Example - Task Description with Determined Priorities

Task: Organize Instagram Live with Client
1- Define Guest Client
2 – Book Date
3 – Publish online invitations
4 – Live Broadcasting

 

Give straightforward instructions and see your team members work faster with GitScrum!

 

Denise Maciel

GitScrum copywriter - Marketing & advertising specialist, communicator, artist in spare time.