Final Thoughts on The 7 Steps of Hierarchical Task Analysis


In any long-term program to support human performance, the analyst will need to update their understanding of the user's tasks. Tools change, business goals change, and even the workers change. Periodic review will keep the analysis up-to-date and useful to the organization.  
In order to ensure both the accuracy and effectiveness of a task analysis, there should be an agreed program of review and quality assurance. The following processes are recommended: 


In the preparation for the analysis, the review procedure should be established and agreed upon. This should include definition of stages in the analysis and the scope of the checks and reviews to be made at each stage.  


The analyst will undertake data gathering for the task analysis. Once data has been collected the analyst will prepare the first draft of the analysis. This should at least comprise the HTA diagrams, but may also include partial completion of the various tabular analyses. These initial analyses should be checked by the appropriate subject matter expert to ensure that they are correct. Rather than allow the reviewer to edit the analysis, we feel it is best if the review is carried out face to face so that the analyst and reviewer can resolve discrepancies and can amend the analysis directly. If there are outstanding issues which are still not completely resolved, then the analyst should seek additional data in order to complete the HTA satisfactorily. If the client prefers, they can make alterations to the task analysis, and the changes are marked; however, this just indicates that an amendment has been made - not the actual change.  


Once the data is collected and the main analysis is finished, then the various decomposition tables should be completed. At this stage, further analyses may be carried out, such as timeline analysis or error assessment. The analyst will start to develop findings and recommendations which should be noted in the analysis. It is probably valuable to carry out an informal review of proposed recommendations at this stage so that the client for the analysis gains an expectation of the likely results from the analysis. This provides a good opportunity to remove any misconceptions and to make sure the analysis is on the right track to meet the original objectives. 


The report should be prepared. This will be subjected to normal internal QA and editing. This means the report is independently checked for technical content and that it meets format and editorial standards.  


The client for the report should be requested formally to respond to each of the recommendations. They should either be accepted or be subject to further review. There should a procedure to finally resolve each recommendation. This means that an agreed set of actions to meet the agreed recommendations will be drawn up. There should, therefore, be a timetable for checking, first, that the various actions have been implemented, and where necessary, there should be checks to assess whether modifications have had the expected benefits for operation. When there have been actions to resolve a number of discrepancies or where the task analysis has provoked critical changes to meet safety concerns, then it is appropriate to produce a final version of the report where these changes are listed. This will particularly be the case if further assessment studies have been conducted as part of the response to the recommendations.

There you have it - our final recommendations for how to perform a hierarchical task analysis.  Please leave a comment below about what you think.