Sunday, November 6, 2011

You can't assign 1 task to 2 people

This is one of my biggest pet peeves with certain project management software packages out there.

You cannot assign one task to more than one person!

And yet there is tons of project management software out there that lets people adopt this bad practice. Have you ever tried asking a group a question? It just leads to individuals assuming that someone else will take care of it.

You: "Hey team, Is the release going to be ready for Friday?"

Developer: "Well, I've done everything I can, but the client hasn't sent their logo yet."

QA Person: "The file interface is still buggy, but I'm not sure if I'm supposed to log bugs about that yet."

What's wrong here? There's no clear responsibility and no one owns the task.

Responsibility is key to all projects, and every task needs one person to be ultimately responsible for moving it forward.

This does not mean that multiple people can't collaborate and contribute towards the solution, but multiple assignment is often very dangerous.

Instead of both people taking responsibility, each one assumes the other one has it covered, and nobody takes any action.

This is why in most companies, there is a single CFO who is ultimately responsible for the finances or a COO who takes ownership of sales and operations. They would not be able to succeed without support from their teams and colleagues, but at the end of the day, they are responsible.

From the very beginnings of PMRobot, when it was just a simple ticketing system, we designed it to ensure that a ticket could only be assigned to one person at any given time.

This leaves no chance for ambiguity or misunderstanding about who needs to get what done.

If you want to increase your efficiency and reduce the number of things falling through the cracks, make sure you only assign things to one person.


  1. This is a great lesson many people can learn from. Not just in project management, but also in life. Great post!

  2. This is quite true where you have multiple people working separately in multiple tasks in parallel, especially with complex workflow involving input from third parties after long delays. When the environment is optimized for focus, responsibility becomes less of a problem.

    For instance, you can have two people working together on a single task, where neither moves on to another task until the task in question is completed, as in pair programming. You can avoid many "event delays" by having the resources that would otherwise cause delays readily available, as with "on-site customer" or dedicated test systems. You can avoid the need for frequent access to scarce resources by doing the bulk of your work more cheaply, like using unit tests before going to acceptance testing.

    In the end, you have to organize the whole work around the way people function best, not the way a set of abstract performers would optimally apply time to execute tasks.

  3. Kwel my answer to this solution will one primary owner and one secondary owner, the primary owner will be responsibe and drive the whole show.