How to Conduct a Task Analysis (With Examples)

How to Conduct a Task Analysis (With Examples)

Apr 16, 2024

Creating a to-do list and using a daily task tracker can go a long way toward helping you and your team get things done. But identifying and delegating tasks is only one part of the process. Performing a task analysis can help you refine the purpose of your task, break your task down into subtasks, and improve productivity and efficiency.

Team leaders in nearly any industry can perform a task analysis as a way to optimize internal practices, improve the customer experience, or even to assist employees with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Let’s take a look at what a task analysis is, how to perform a task analysis, and some real-world task analysis examples.

What Is Task Analysis?

Task analysis examples: Paul from the Wayward Guide for the Untrained Eye talking

Task analysis is the process of identifying the purpose and components of a complex task and breaking it down into smaller steps. Rather than trying to teach a new skill or process all at once, the purpose of task analysis is to separate it into individual steps that can be followed in a logical sequence.

The principles of task analysis can be used in product design and industrial engineering. It provides a method to better understand the way a customer uses a product and to design more user-friendly workflows. Forward and backward chaining can even be applied to systems that use artificial intelligence (AI) to make data-driven decisions and solve problems.

You’ll often see principles of task analysis applied to special education settings, which can inform employers who have employees with disabilities. For example, applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that uses task analysis to teach complex skills to children with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental disabilities.

In ABA therapy, practitioners use techniques like forward chaining to break down a task into a sequence of discrete steps. A related approach, discrete trial training (DTT), can be used for teaching students everything from motor skills to daily living skills.

Types of Task Analysis

When using task analysis to plan a project or develop a new product, you can choose from one of two forms: cognitive and hierarchical. A cognitive task analysis is useful for tasks that require critical thinking or decision-making, while a hierarchical task analysis can be used for processes with a consistent structure or workflow.

Here’s how these two types of task analysis differ.

Cognitive task analysis

Let’s say you’re developing a new piece of software and you want to better understand how your customers will interact with the user interface. Rather than tell them how to perform a task, you simply give them a goal and watch how they achieve it.

Since different users will complete the task in a different way, you can use this analysis to identify pain points or understand how a customer’s knowledge and mindset inform their approach to completing the task.

Hierarchical task analysis

A hierarchical task analysis is one in which the process is fixed. In other words, you give the user a set of specific steps and watch how they perform each step of the task. You may discover that some steps are unnecessary or don’t serve the overall goal.

A hierarchical task analysis can be used to determine how long it takes to perform the total task process, and which steps can be eliminated with task automation.

How to Perform a Task Analysis in 4 Steps

Task analysis examples: Sean Flanagan saying, well where to start

The steps to conducting a task analysis will vary depending on whether you’re analyzing an internal process, a UX workflow, or a social or academic skill. But you can use these five steps to break down nearly any type of task and perform a task analysis as part of team project management or your own self-management process.

1. Define your goal

Start by defining the overall goal or task process that you want to analyze. This could be as simple as “Create a new user account and buy a product” or as in-depth as “Run a post-mortem meeting and send out meeting minutes to everyone who attended.” The more specific your goal, the more useful your task analysis will be.

2. Create a list of subtasks

Next, break your higher-level task down into manageable steps. The idea is to create a list of all the subtasks that go into performing the task, even those that you might take for granted. You never know which tasks are slowing the whole process down.

For example, if you’re testing a new app, the first step might be “Turn on your phone” and the last step might be “Turn off your phone.”

3. Make a flowchart or diagram

A process flow chart or workflow diagram can help you determine which type of analysis to perform. Is your workflow a linear process with a series of discrete tasks that need to be completed in a specific order? Consider performing a hierarchical task analysis to find steps that you can automate or eliminate.

Is it more of a “choose your own adventure” in which different users will complete the task in a different way? Conduct a cognitive task analysis to identify pain points and prerequisites based on how different categories of users complete the task.

4. Analyze the task

Now, you can run through the process and pay attention to the length, frequency, and difficulty of each subtask. Were there any steps that you missed or that took longer than expected to complete? If another user performed the task, did they have the skills and knowledge necessary to complete the entire process?

You can use this information to make changes to the product or process, create more accurate documentation, or improve your training or onboarding practices.

3 Task Analysis Examples

Task analysis examples: Audrey Temple from the Homecoming talking

The principles of task analysis can be applied to a wide range of scenarios, so let’s take a look at a few examples of task analysis in the real world.

Task analysis in UX design

In UX design, a task analysis may take the form of a focus group or usability testing. If you’ve just designed a new app, you might want to see how easy it is for customers to download the app and sign up for a new account. The process might look like this:

  1. Go to the App Store
  2. Search for the app
  3. Download the app
  4. Open the app
  5. Select “Create account”
  6. Enter your email address
  7. Verify your email address
  8. Choose a username and password

Upon conducting a task analysis, you determine that Step 7, “Verify your email address,” actually consists of multiple subtasks, such as opening up an email app. You decide to move this step later in the process to avoid disrupting the workflow.

Task analysis in project management

As a project manager, it’s important to know how your team members are spending their time so you can improve productivity and team accountability. Let’s say you want to find ways to delegate tasks more efficiently by using task automation. You come up with a list of the steps you usually follow to delegate tasks:

  • Document action items during team meetings
  • Add action items to your task manager
  • Create a description for each task
  • Assign each task to a team member
  • Attach a due date to each task
  • Send out a reminder email

After performing a task analysis, you determine that you don’t actually have to do any of these steps manually. You can use an AI task manager like Anchor AI to identify and delegate action items, attach due dates, and send out reminders automatically.

Task analysis for learning disabilities

In employment settings, a task analysis can be used to help employees with learning disabilities who otherwise struggle to complete tasks. One study found that individuals with intellectual disabilities were able to complete office tasks like scanning, copying, and shredding when they were broken down into steps like:

  • Pick up documents from folder
  • Open the scanner cover
  • Place documents face-down on the scanner
  • Close the scanner cover
  • Press “Scan”
  • Open the scanner cover
  • Remove documents
  • Close the scanner cover
  • Return documents to the folder

Employees with learning disabilities may benefit from similarly specific instructions for other daily tasks, such as using time management tools or a password manager.

Streamline Task Management With Anchor AI

Becky from Utopia talking

Performing a task analysis is a way of breaking down complex tasks into smaller steps so you can better understand how they all fit together. It’s used in workplaces, learning environments, and other settings to standardize processes, streamline workflows, and even teach social skills. You can use a task analysis to optimize internal processes or customer-facing workflows and eliminate unnecessary tasks altogether.

Anchor AI makes it easy to identify tasks and break them down into manageable steps with Max, your AI project manager. Simply invite Anchor AI to your next team meeting and Max will identify action items and delegate tasks automatically. Or, Ask Max for deeper insights into how specific tasks align with your overall project goals.

Sign up today to try it out for yourself and streamline task and project management!

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