Assigning Tasks

In XPM, tasks are assigned to the team, not to individuals. Most tasks are assigned during the weekly planning meeting. Extra tasks can be assigned at any time during an iteration provided that lower-priority tasks are removed.

Weekly Planning Meeting

The purpose of the weekly planning meeting is to select, define, and estimate tasks expected to be completed by the end of the current iteration. The PM selects the highest priority tasks from the current task list. Selection is based on project schedule, client requirements, and other business criteria, but only the highest priority tasks are selected. The number of tasks selected are based on current velocity. If team velocity is 100, only 100 points worth of tasks are selected. (Velocity is modified based on staff availability). The team is expected to complete all selected tasks, the entire 100 points, by the end of the iteration. They completed 100 points last iteration, so they should be able to do it again.


Each task is represented by a task card. No task card can exceed 8 points (ideal hours). If a task exceeds 8 points, the PM, working with team members, breaks it down into smaller tasks.

Tasks usually focus on producing a deliverable: something tangible, like a drawing or a report; or giving a performance: attending a meeting or doing a presentation. Overhead tasks, like management and support tasks, that don't directly produce deliverables, are not included in the task list and are assigned in other meetings.

Team members define and estimate each task. They define the task by clarifying its scope, usually by questioning the PM. They attempt to understand exactly what the PM expects. They usually break the task into subtasks to help understand and estimate it. Team members estimate a task by estimating the amount of time, in ideal hours, that the task will take. They record the estimate on the task card, along with other notes to remind them later of the scope of work.

Extra Tasks

Extra tasks are unexpected tasks added during an iteration. They're usually high-priority tasks that must be done right away, before the end of the iteration. They can't be put off until the next planning meeting. They are represented by a task card, defined and estimated like a normal task card, usually in a stand-up meeting, held specifically for that purpose.

When extra tasks are added after an iteration has begun, other lower-priority tasks must be removed to maintain the expected velocity. In other words, if velocity is expected to be 100 points and a 4-point task is added, the PM removes another lower priority 4-point task.

Related Questions

Who assigns tasks? Team members sign up for tasks, they are not assigned. The entire team is responsible for completing the week's tasks and thus decides how tasks are divided and who does what. In other words, the PM assigns the week's tasks (and extra tasks) to the team, not to individuals.

What if the team estimate differs from the original estimate? Revise the original estimate to reflect to the team estimate. The PM may have to add or remove tasks to maintain the expected velocity.

What if the team can't complete all tasks assigned for the iteration? The PM decides whether to add uncompleted tasks to a later iteration or to not do them at all. No points are awarded for uncompleted tasks.

What if a task already started can't be completed on time? The PM decides whether to abandon the uncompleted task, re-define it, or complete it in a later iteration. No points are awarded for the partially completed task.

What if the team completes all its tasks before the iteration is over? The PM selects additional tasks. The team defines, estimates and completes them and additional points are awarded for completion. Velocity increases accordingly.

What if significantly more work than originally estimated must done on a task? Sometimes we discover unexpected tasks within tasks. Notify the PM. The PM then decides whether to abandon the task, reduce its scope, or create new tasks to reflect this new knowledge.

What if the scope of an already defined task must be increased? After a task is defined and estimated, its scope is expected to remain unchanged. If significant additional work must be done, it should be treated as an extra task. Add a new task card, define, and estimate it. If the additional work is trivial, just complete it as part of the task.


More Information

To see how assigning tasks fits within the XPM process, see Extreme Project Management.

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