Tag your tasks – Eliminate Static Hierarchy

Last year I wrote a post called “Microsoft Project doesn’t work“.  The headline is a bit sensational, but the sentiment is something I am going to explore further in this post.

Project management tools usually require the entry of tasks and all their accompanying data via hierarchies.  A group of tasks are made a subset of a parent task, which fits within a project, etc….  The end result is a single view hierarchy for a scope of work.

The problem with static hierarchies is that they are just one view of a complex world.  Another person in the exact same job as you, might see the structure/relationships differently.  Yet another person in a completely different role from you will almost definitely create different groupings and sub-structures for the tasks.  Over time, even YOU are likely to believe the task relationships aren’t quite right due to new information about the world changing around that structure.

Despite most project members’ mild buy-in to the initial work breakdown structure and despite the fact that almost all project plans become rapidly irrelevant, they are still the favored structure for project managers.

What if rather than grouping tasks and building a hierarchy, tasks are just tagged with keywords?   There are relatively sophisticated tools now for building views on top of those tags to show the work plan in the way that makes most sense to the viewer.  There could also be filters to take out extraneous (to that person) information and simple hyperlinks to view related sets of tasks.

There would still need to be dependencies between tasks, but those related tasks could be initially found through keyword searches and links could be established via collaborative project start-up sessions.  With dependencies established, individualized views could allow software to display specific gantt charts.

Avoiding the static hierarchy means one less artifact pinning down the original plan thereby giving more opportunity for the plan to stay ahead of the reality taking shape around it over time.

Does anyone know of any project management tools out there that work more like this?  I have not found them yet.

3 responses to “Tag your tasks – Eliminate Static Hierarchy

  1. Hi Robert,

    I think you’re offering a new idea for companies creating a PM tool, and that’s why I would really love to publish your post on PM Hut (where hopefully a company will notice it and implement it – PM Hut has a very high targeted readership).

    Please either email me or contact me through the contact us form on the PM Hut website in case you’re OK with this.

  2. i’m currently experiencing with three tools to exactly realize what you described:
    1. org-mode: lacks tag hierarchy, but can realize linking (for dependecies) and using plain text as front-end is xtremely efficient
    2. piggyDB: lacks text front end, but has tag hierarchy and very clear dependency definition
    3. TiddlyWiki: you can simulate tag hierarchy and dependency via lists and links, but after all it’s a wiki and comes with too much overhead for dynamic use.

  3. Great ideas. I stumbled on this as I want to find a tool that does the exact same thing.

    Can you offer any suggestions of tools to try?

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