Assigning tasks to more than one person in Asana

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 Filed under:   Best practices, Management tips

Every time I teach one of our on-site Asana workshops, one question inevitably pops up. “How do you assign a task to more than one person?”

Rather than directly answer it, I think it’s important to understand the context around the question and in what situations you would actually even want to do that.

The Directly Responsible Individual (DRI)

Every project management tool is built with certain philosophies and methodologies in mind. Asana was built borrowing a concept from Apple, Inc. called the “Directly Responsible Individual” model. This framework is a simple tool to make ownership clear. At Apple, everything has a DRI—from billion dollar products like the iPhone to the smallest software update or meeting agenda item. The DRI is expected to drive progress forward or find the necessary resources to do so.

There are so many benefits to naming a Directly Responsible Individual:

  • Know exactly whom to ask questions
  • Team members can focus on different things rather than all worrying about the same things
  • There’s no room for finger-pointing if things go awry
  • No ambiguity about who is driving when things aren’t being talked about in meetings
  • It clarifies who will see something to completion, even if multiple people play a role

When there isn’t a DRI

We all know what happens when there isn’t a DRI. When no one is made responsible, it never gets done. It often sounds like this: “We talked about this 5 months ago. Why has nothing happened?” This is due to poor management. No one was made responsible.

On the flip side, when multiple people are put in charge, it still never gets done. This often happens when responsibility is left to a committee.

Committees are excellent for ideas, representing differing viewpoints, and pooling knowledge. But they are terrible at execution.

One person with responsibility is the magic number. This does NOT mean that one person does everything! In the case of Apple, they may have a small army of engineers working on a single problem. But one person knows they are responsible for solving the problem and managing the team to make it happen.

So in general, Asana expects you to list one person as the Task Assignee. If multiple people are involved, they should be followers or perhaps assignees of other tasks or subtasks. And in the case of a project, there is one Project Owner to report regularly on the project status.

But what about when you truly want to assign one task to multiple people?

There are cases where you actually do want to assign a single task to multiple people. For example:

  • You want everyone on a team to read the same article before attending a meeting
  • The entire company should submit their time sheets on Friday
  • Several project members should each brainstorm ideas on solving a software issue

The way Asana handles this is to create copies of the same task that are assigned to each person. Then each task still has a DRI, and it will show in each person’s My Tasks as well.

How to assign copies of a task in Asana

  1. Fill out all the information for the task before choosing an assignee, like the Description, adding attachments, etc. If you don’t do this before making copies, you’ll have to go back through one-by-one to add this information!
  2. After clicking on the assignee field, click on the “Assign Copies” icon (#2 in the image below).
  3. Start typing the names of everyone you want to receive a copy of the task. You can also add entire teams of people at a time!
  4. Click “Assign XX Copies” and you’re done! Asana does all the communicating for you to the assignees.

Assign Copies of Asana Tasks
This image shows the Assign Copies icon. Source: Asana.com

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