Using Top Tasks
Using Top Tasks for your intranet? Think again! 
Written by Cristian SALANTI

First, I like Gerry McGovern a lot! I bought his book, and for years I religiously read his newsletter. I even paid to attend one of his conferences, yet, unfortunately, it was cancelled. 

I also consider that for a long time, Top Task was the best methodology around for designing good intranets.  


Top Tasks limitations 

While very popular, this method also comes with limitations in relationship with identifying the employee tasks. 

  1. If you ask the same employee a few months apart what his top tasks or needs are, you will get different results. 
  2. If you ask two people doing the same work about their tasks, you will get different results. 
  3. Low frequency, high business impact tasks might be easily overlooked. In fact, the probability to mis relevant tasks grows with the complexity of the organization. 
  4. The process takes a lot of time. You must pick the employees, schedule discussions with them and compile the results. 
  5. You need an experienced consultant to run the entire process  
 In summary, it is a costly, time-consuming, and not very reliable process. 


Key question 

Would you fly with an airplane that was built using top tasks? Or would you rather fly with a plane in which each critical system was identifies and carefully designed? 

If you look at how well intranets meet the needs of the employees (aside from news, employee directories and a few other simple functionalities) Intranet building is one of the most failure prone processes I know.  

The industry needs a better approach. One that makes the same difference as Ford model T brought to the automotive industry.   


A different perspective 

I want to share with you a different approach 

It starts with the idea that each employee’s task is somebody else’s service. So, instead of trying to guess what all the relevant employee tasks are, identify all the service providers within the company and enable them to better deliver their internal services to their internal customers.  

How do you find these service providers? Very easy. Basically, you ask each director what services their department delivers to the rest of the organization, who are the responsible persons, and who are their internal audiences. And if you had properly updated job descriptions, you would only need those to do the job right. 

In comparison with Top Tasks, this model works at a deeper level within the organization. An organization works because departments provide services to each other.  The role of an intranet is to help the internal services providers to deliver their services more efficiently using digital and asynchronous channels. 

To implement the delivery of each service I use an extension of the Why (motivate the employee), How (work instructions, recent changes, app link, training resources, support resources, feedback mechanism, etc.) and What (tasks to be done) model. 

It does not focus on tasks as such, but on the slightly wider envelope of delivery of internal services. In a sense, it is a decentralized task identification method, yet it is decentralized at the level of the employees who are most interested in improving the execution of these tasks. It has the advantaje that besides the core task (making a holiday request, as an example), by providing a comprehensive set of resources, it will answers to other smaller, related tasks (who is going to approve my request if the manager is not in the office, what do I do with my remaining holidays from the previous year, who do I contact for support, etc.).  



  • It is comprehensive: after the initial inventory you will know all the relevant internal services within your organization; no guesswork is involved. 
  • It is simple and faster to implement; instead of spending time sampling the employee base, you just must go to senior managers and ask them what service they deliver; the delivery of each service can be implemented in parallel by their owners using a simple model. 
  • Better results:  
    – the Why (motivation) plays an important role in ensuring great results. 
    the What (task integration) ensures that tasks are performed faster. 
    You can do that without senior consultants deeply involved in the process. 
  • Easier maintenance: because the intranet becomes the delivery medium for the internal service providers, it is natural that the internal service providers will want to keep up to date and improve the existing content as it aligns with their job purpose to deliver a better service and reduce support costs. 


In a nutshell, it is faster, more efficient, more effective, and more sustainable. 


I call this model Zenify. 


What do you think? 

I would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to use the comments box below 😊 

Last Edited Date:Tue Feb 7