One of the common reasons most of our work fails to be completed or to be completed on time is the delay on completion of inputs from others that we depend on to carry out our work. In projects, some call such inputs ‘dependencies’. Basically, a dependency is a connection between two activities. If we do not fully understand linkages between activities – especially between activities that we are responsible for and those not within our control – then we will never maximise our productivity.
Linkages between activities come up due to several reasons. Three among the top reasons why we get these linkages are as follows. First is a logical connection. This is where one event causes the other to happen. For example, unless you have fuel supplied to you, you cannot drive a car. Therefore, if you are a professional driver, you need to know that the section that supplies you with fuel is critical to how you excel at your job.
The second one is limitedness of resources. For example, bottle store owners know that the truck that brings drinks will normally have a standard route. The time when a particular bottle store will be supplied with drinks depends on, among other matters, the speed with which the preceding bottle stores are supplied. And if the bottle stores being supplied before yours consume all the drinks, you may not even have the chance to get any supplies! If the company supplying drinks had many trucks, or if it was cheap to send a small pickup directly to each bottle store, you would get supplied much earlier – but that would be expensive too- resource constraints are the main consideration here.
The third reason why dependencies come about is simply by choice or preference. Let us imagine you want to buy clothes for your children. In your plan, you want to buy clothes for one child per month. You will make the order of which child is dressed up first and who is last simply based on your choice or preference. For the children, if they know this, those who are clever to negotiate and justify why they should be treated first may carry the day!
Professional project managers go to the detail of these connections between project activities to understand the type of dependency so that they can control and accelerate their project. There are four basic types of dependencies. Some dependencies occur where you need to complete one activity before you can start another. In other situations, you need to finish one activity before another activity can also be finished. The third type is where you cannot start an activity unless another dependent activity has started. The fourth and in this case obvious one by elimination is where you need to start one activity in order for another activity to be finished. We will leave the detail to you to think about in your free time.
Now what can we take home from all this? Unless you understand the concept of dependencies well, you may not optimise your success especially where your activities are linked with other events or activities. It becomes more problematic when your delivery depends directly on work done by others. As you start planning your work, you need to list all the dependencies and their players or actors.
You need to be clear which of the other players or actors may likely affect your timely completion of your tasks. You need to engage them well in advance. Alert them on the action you will need from them and how that action impacts your delivery.
Motivate them to buy into the need for them to deliver their action in time. Give them enough notice and keep following up well in time so that you do not take them by surprise. In some cases, you may have to go out of your way to go and help the people you depend on to solve their problems and to complete their actions so that your work does not get affected. Reach out to all your dependencies and this way you will surely rise and shine!