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What Is Task Analysis?

Efficient work flow and information relay are vital to the success of any system, be it a business, club or organization, or school.
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  • Written By: Donn Saylor
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2014
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Task analysis is the study of the mental and physical processes that are entailed in accomplishing a specific task. A variety of different factors figure into successful task analysis, including how long the task takes and how often it is performed, what the environment is like, and how difficult the task is. It is used predominantly in business settings, specifically in regard to business process mapping and business process modeling, two fields of study that seek to define the activities and procedures involved in a business or particular job.

A comprehensive task analysis can present important findings on how an existing system functions. Efficient work flow and information relay are vital to the success of any system, be it a business, club or organization, or school. Task analysis illuminates issues related to productivity, human reliability, planning, and decision-making and can help enhance a group's current system of operation.

Task analysis is related to several forms of psychology, including cognitive psychology and cognitive ergonomics. Both of these fields set out to understand the cognitive processes at work in the mind when specific tasks are undertaken. Cognitive psychology seeks a broader insight into mental practices while cognitive ergonomics focuses on mental practices within the workplace. These two areas figure heavily into the development of successful task analyses.

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Job analysis, which details the various aspects of a certain job, is one frequent responsibility that entails task analysis. This situation may be utilized when hiring new employees or evaluating current ones. It can also highlight the need for future changes to the position or the organization itself.

A task analysis is undertaken by a process of "task decomposition." It involves identifying the major tasks of a position, and then breaking them down into smaller and smaller tasks until even the tiniest details and mental processes are included. A task analysis can be as thorough as necessary and can cover everything from essential functions to dress code.

While often written out in a step by step format, many find it easier to present and understand task analysis when it is mapped out as a diagram or flowchart. This allows the person conducting the analysis to quite literally illustrate the progression of processes involved in completing a task. Flowcharts can be created in a variety of styles to suit the analysis to be presented and often offer a clear picture of what it takes to get a specific job accomplished.

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