Are you too general? Or too specific?

Okay, so you’ve gone through the hurdle of deciding whether to break down your projects into smaller pieces or not. And of course, you’re sitting there with your team to assign and identify jobs or tasks that best fit in each part.

Then you stumble upon another dilemma… how detailed should you be when you cut these things up? Are you too general or too specific?

Here are some thoughts that I’d like to share with you:

Too Specific

It’s critical to any project that it be broken down into action steps that everybody can actually do along the way. However, you can get a little too specific when you crush the big project into smaller pieces. There are just people who like to put every little minute detail into an action step.

1. Press the button to turn the computer on
2. Write “Things to do” after the meeting, etc.

Being specific is great and will help a lot of people in your team know what you really want each one to do, but don’t be trigger happy when you assign these things to them. Don’t be too specific, but leave room for your staff (or yourself) to apply a little bit of their thing on the project/task.

Too General

Others prefer the vague or general approach, almost getting close to summing up a project with a single step:

1. Call clients
2. Deliver goods
3. Cancel meetings

There are a lot of things that involve calling clients or delivering goods or cancelling your meetings. Which client should you call? What goods and where will you be delivering them? When? Are you going to cancel a couple of meetings or all of the meetings?

Give yourself and your team a break. Don’t let them go wonder what to do next? It’s nice to give them space to exhibit their initiative, but don’t go to the extreme of actually paralyzing them. There’s so much to consider in doing one particular thing. At least make it clearer for them.


It actually depends on you. But I wouldn’t say whatever works for you. What works for you might not work for some of the members of your team. It takes knowledge and relationship to actually know how your team mates work. You’re their leader. It’s your responsibility to actually make them work well. Create the environment. But it’s always safe to be at the middle ground. Not too specific, not too general. Just right for everybody to be happy.

That may sound settling for the convenient, but hey who says convenience is entirely a bad thing? When done with the right mindset, convenience actually helps you do more.

Your thoughts

How about you? What have you experienced deciding to break projects into smaller pieces? What worked for you? What other things would you like to add?

Let us all know in the comments!

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About the Author

Stephen NellasStephen is part of the Software Jewel team, the company behind Clutterpad and BiP. He's also a regular author for BiP.View all posts by Stephen Nellas →