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When Can A Task Be Reported As Complete?

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Task setting is used on a daily basis in a team environment, especially at an executive level where actions have to be recorded and analysed before being marked as complete or when managing direct reports from other employees. As a consequence, most working professionals will be familiar with the four main stages of a task:

  1. When communications indicate the assignment of a task/s
  2. When a task is started
  3. When the task is completed
  4. And when the result is realized

But when putting these steps into place, are you aware of what is a task and what is a result? And how does your overall understanding of each stage affect the overall performance of a team and the results that are achieved?

The definition of a task requires clarity in order for internal operations to continue working efficiently. It is also just as important to ensure that each employee understands the process in order to prevent miscommunication – a lack of guidelines can lead to serious delays and poor results, affecting the overall performance of the business.

In this article, I help to define the steps that are needed to complete a task, as well as how to identify whether the right result/s have been achieved before marking a task complete.

1.   Notification
For a task to begin, the relevant team members or employees must be notified. They must also be provided with the information needed to complete the task.  Whether this is done via email or in a meeting, it is essential that the task be logged into a task ticketing system (for example, your business’s CRM system) so that any progress can be tracked and employees can refer back to important information.
Any actions that have been made in response to this notification should also be considered and reviewed before moving onto the next stage. Was the notification received? Has the task been acknowledged and accepted? Have milestones and/or deadlines been put in place and confirmed?

There will be no results at this point in time however, these actions will help define work load, as well as the quality of work that is expected. Once the appropriate actions have been made, work can begin.   

2.   The Task Is Started
When completing a task, work efforts should focus on meeting the deadlines set in place in order to provide the final product. 

However, just because a task has started doesn’t mean that it is complete. With this action, the task is still a work in progress and will not be finished until every piece of work is completed.
During this time, an accurate completion date may or may not be available and there will be little indication as to whether a task will or will not be completed on time.

3.   Completion
For completion, all work will need to come to an end, and any formalities associated with completion (such as a report, presentation, paperwork or further communications via email etc.) will need to take place.

A common misconception is that a task should end here and be marked as complete – all work will have come to a standstill and a final product will have been delivered. Surely it would make sense to consider closing the task here?

However, this is not the case as the question of whether the task was a success or not still remains.
Although a final product has been delivered (or, in some cases, not delivered), a further step is needed to determine if any more work needs to be done and if there is anything to be learnt from the process that can be applied to future tasks and projects.

4.   Results
After completion, the results of a task need to be reviewed. Does the final result achieve the goal outlined in the initial notification? Are more actions needed to bring this result in line with the expectations set out at the beginning?
A result orientated approach could mean having to re-do certain actions until the desired result is achieved or until the task is cancelled. If satisfied with the result, however, a task can be reported as complete.

The definition of a task given at the beginning is, therefore, critical – it is impossible to effectively analyse the results of actions against initial expectations if a task has not been properly defined.

SMART goals are industry’s best practice, no matter what sector or line of business you are in. They enable a person to outline the bare minimum of what needs to be achieved, detailing the action timeline that needs to be completed and what the result should look like. The expected result can then be used to drive a team in the right direction, helping a manager or team leader to measure the overall performance and to analyse the achieved result.

To make sure that a goal is clearly defined, each one should be:

  1. Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  2. Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
  3. Achievable (agreed, attainable).
  4. Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
  5. Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

When spread over a longer period of time, milestones can be set in place with tasks being split into phases.

Being able to differentiate between what is a task and what is a result is an essential skill to have and will enable you to improve the quality of your own work, as well as the work efforts of your own team and employees. By comparing the end result of a task to the initial requirements set by SMART goals, you will gain a clear picture of what is needed to improve efficiency, productivity and performance.

Written by
Shivendra Kumar
Shivendra Kumar is a highly regarded leader, known for delivering organizational transformation through innovation and process improvement. With a unique approach and inspirational leadership style that creates a culture of change in businesses, he develops organisational capability needed for both short and long term results. His blogs cover topics related to business improvement, metrics and innovation.