The Task Analysis Mapping: How Many Steps to Paint a Wall?
How many steps does it take to paint a wall? Great question. Have you ever sat down and tried to list all of the steps? Is there three? Maybe five. That all depends on what you consider a task. Would driving to the paint store and buying paint be one task or two? These questions and much more are the kinds of questions that are needed when creating a task analysis map.
I was challenged with creating my first task analysis map. The challenge was to draw a storyboard illustrating all of the steps involved in painting a wall/room. The first step in this exercise is to know your audience or who you are creating this for. Does your audience want to see how detailed you are in breaking down each task into smaller tasks? Do they want you to be creative and combine tasks that are similar? Is this a quick exercise with a general time limit given?
In my case, I was not to spend more than two hours from concept to completion. My first step was to list all of the steps I could think of that goes into painting a wall. I must confess my Dad is a house painter and I have been painting on and off with him for 20 years. After I made my initial list I then went back over it to see if I left off any obvious steps and added them in. I then wrote out a description of the illustrations I would use for each step in my storyboard. Lastly, I divided up my paper into equal rectangles and illustrated the steps.
While my storyboard could have been much more detailed in both my illustrations and length that was not the point of the exercise. The point of the exercise is to think critically about a problem that needs to be solved, break it down into the steps needed to solve it and illustrate those steps so that they can easily be shared with others.
The next time you encounter a complex problem or procedure try mapping it out and see if it doesn’t become more manageable.