How do I set a task for an employee

My name is Andrey Glushko. I am an IT project manager, I am a mentor, I have gone from a developer to a manager, in my approaches I rely primarily on people, and then on practices.

Today I want to share my approach to setting a task for an employee.

From my own experience, I realized that it is necessary to find a balance between the involvement of an employee in the goals of the company and his own goals. Therefore, for myself, I determined that it is important to be able to set tasks in such a way that it draws the employee into the subject area of ​​​​his position and, he realizes why this task is being performed for business purposes.

About company goals

To begin with, I try to find out how much it is necessary to involve the employee in the goals of the project or company. Let’s consider several options:

  1. If this is a freelancer with whom I do not intend to work in the future, then setting the task in the form of instructions, in my opinion, will be the most appropriate option. There is no need to create additional discussion meetings to explain how a particular task fits into the firm’s roadmap. I want to just get the result from the executor.

  2. If it is a freelancer on test assignments. In this case, I am already trying to start involving a potential employee in the affairs of the company and so that he can make independent decisions in case of questions, and not constantly run to me for clarifications.

  3. Another situation is if this is a full-time employee. Here, for me, the question is not whether to involve an employee or not. In this case, I evaluate how much information he needs to give about the goals of the company so that he can comfortably understand and take responsibility for his task.

About setting a task

After it became clear to me the need and degree of involvement, for the development of high employee loyalty in the company, I determine the detail of the task statement. Agree, you can say in the form of instructions “Peter, we need to install a ‘specific caching service’ using the techniques ‘technique_1’ and ‘technique_2’”. In fact, in this way, I take away the employee’s motivation and desire to take initiative. However, it also happens that an employee is still a beginner, and if I entrust him with a lot of responsibility, transferring decisions on the choice of specific technologies and methods for completing your task to him, then there is a high chance that he will fail the task. So I do the following:

  1. I determine how developed the hard skills of the performer are. If this is a senior who has seen a lot and who understands the company’s system, it will be easier for him delegate analysis and selection of specific solutions. And I set the task in the form of a business goal that needs to be achieved.

  2. I rely on the areas of responsibility between me and the performer. No matter how strong the employee’s hard skills are, I try to ensure that I don’t shift the part of the responsibility that lies with me onto them. After all, if I am a project manager, then transferring to the programmer the obligation to choose business areas for solving the problem will be demotivating for him. Therefore, I follow the strategy of giving the employee a choice, but at the same time not overloading him with this choice. As a result, I try to show him what are the scope of business requirements that must be met when performing tasks already at a technical level.

About project resources

Last but not least, I set resource expectations for the task. It is not sad, but all tasks and tasks may not be completed on time, there is always a chance of this. Here again, it seems fundamental to me not to shift responsibility for the spent resources of the company onto the employee. Therefore, if I know that the task is urgent, then there is simply no time to hold additional rallies for the brainstorm, and I do not hold them. As a result, I issue the task in the form of instructions. On the other hand, if I understand that at the moment the team has time and that if the task fails, the project will not be on the verge, then I already compose the task in a more involved form for the employee.


Based on my reasoning, I created some classification of the types of task setting for an employee, depending on the level of his involvement in the business part of the company:

  1. At the business level: “It is important for customers to understand how reliable our application is” The employee, as a solution to this problem, can implement a monitoring system, and he himself makes decisions about choosing a way to close the problem.

  2. At the business goal level: “We want to show customers that our application is reliable. This can be done through uptime/downtime metrics. {Next are the business requirements.}” The employee is already better aware in which direction to move and how this can be achieved.

  3. At the level of the goal of the performer: “We decided that we should introduce uptime / downtime metrics so that the client better understands how reliable our application is” For the employee, they decided what exactly needs to be done, it remains for him to choose what tools he can achieve this with.

  4. At the level of instructions for the performer: “We need to introduce a monitoring system to calculate uptime/downtime metrics for our application. We will implement our own solution, and not use third-party services. Use nodejs and so that the logs go to elasticsearch, and the charts are built through the chartjs library” There is little space left for the employee himself, but this option is also suitable in some situations.

These types of task setting can be represented as a simple graph: the more an employee is involved in the business, the less he needs to detail the task.

That’s all for me. I will be glad to receive feedback!

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