Parent-Child Tasks

To kick off the back-to-school season, I thought we should take a look at Parent-Child tasks. Designating tasks as a Parent or a Child  can help you visually break up a series of tasks in your project. You also have the added benefit of gives you roll-up data displayed at the parent level.

Parent-Child Tasks (Grouping Main Tasks and Sub-tasks)

You have a project plan you want to break down into manageable chunks. Perhaps you have various phases, and you want to show this in your project schedule.

To show you how to do this, we'll use a project which has several tasks we want to show as sub-tasks, or child tasks. In the beginning, all the tasks are on the same level and have a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) of 1, 2, 3, etc.

  • Select the check boxes for all the tasks you want identified as child tasks, e.g. “Select moving company”, “Reception signage” etc.

  • On the toolbar, click on the blue right arrow icon to indent them

Parent-Child Task

Note that the “Delivery and installation” task is now in bold text and is represented on the Gantt chart with a white bar. This is now a Parent task, and all tasks indented underneath it are its children. You'll notice the data on the Parent task such as Duration and Start and Finish dates is now grayed out. The parent task represents a summary of all the data from the child tasks, and with the exception of the task name, is not editable.

“Delivery and Installation” is now referred to as the “Parent” task and the sub-tasks are referred to as the “Child” tasks.

You will also see that the numbers in the WBS column now have decimal values. This is a another visual cue to help you differentiate between Parent and Child tasks.

Some Things To Note

You can create as many nested-levels of Parent-Child relationships as you need.

Each Parent level can be collapsed or expanded using the +/- icon next to it.

Be careful when linking! When you create a linking relationship where a Parent level task is the successor to another task, all of the dates on the Child tasks will be locked in and you will not be able to change them. It’s usually best to link to the first available Child task. (As a rule of thumb, scroll over to the Predecessor column and if you see anything in Bold text, cut the value in that cell then paste it into the first available Child task’s Predecessor cell.)

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