During the Planning stage of a project, it is appropriate to delete unneeded tasks from the project. After you have saved a baseline for your project, however, it is a very bad practice to delete unneeded tasks. This is because deleting a baselined task also deletes the baseline information about the task, which ends up causing negative project variance that you cannot easily explain.
After baselining your project, if you need to delete an unneeded task, the best way to handle this situation is to cancel the unneeded task rather than deleting it. In Microsoft Project, the software offers two methods for cancelling an unneeded task. If you are using the Professional version of Microsoft Project, you can cancel the unneeded task using the Inactivate Task feature. If you are using the Standard version of Microsoft Project, however, there are a series of steps I recommend you follow to cancel the unneeded task. In this blog post article, I discuss these two methods individually.
Cancel an Unneeded Task Using Microsoft Project Professional
One of the benefits of using the Professional version of Microsoft Project is that the software includes the Inactivate Task feature. Using this feature, you can easily cancel an unneeded task with one click of the mouse button. For example, consider the project shown in Figure 1. In this project, executive leadership has opted to cancel the Provide End User Support task to save money and to finish the project early.
Figure 1: Provide End User Support task needs to be cancelled
To cancel a task using the Professional version of Microsoft Project, select the task you want to cancel, and then click the Task tab to display the Task ribbon. In the Schedule section of the Task ribbon, click the Inactivate toggle button. Figure 2 shows the Inactivate button, along with the tooltip displayed when you float your mouse pointer over the button.
Figure 2: Click the Inactivate button
When you cancel a task using the Inactivate toggle button, Microsoft Project does the following:
Figure 3 shows the Provide End User Support task after cancelling it using the Inactivate toggle button. Notice how the formatting of both the task and its Gantt bar make it very easy to see that this task has been cancelled.
Figure 3: Cancelled task using the Inactivate button
Note: In the Resource Usage view, Microsoft Project applies the Strikethrough font effect to the cancelled task assignment as well as to the Work hours displayed in the timephased grid on the right side of the view.
Cancel an Unneeded Task Using Microsoft Project Standard
To demonstrate how to cancel an unneeded task using the Standard version of Microsoft Project, I will use the same project shown previously in Figure 1, in which I need to cancel the Provide End User Support task. Since the Standard version of Microsoft Project does not include the Inactivate toggle button, I recommend you use the following manual process to cancel an unneeded task:
- Apply the Gantt Chart view
- Right-click on the Select All button (blank button in the upper-left corner of the task sheet) and select the Work table on the shortcut menu.
- In the Work table, set the Remaining Work value to 0h for the task you want to cancel, such as shown in Figure 4. When you complete this step, Microsoft Project recalculates the Duration of the task to 0d, and then changes the Gantt bar to the milestone symbol (a black diamond).
Figure 4: Set the Remaining Work to 0h for the cancelled task
- In the Gantt Chart pane, double-click the milestone symbol (black diamond) for the cancelled task to display the Format Bar dialog.
- In the Start section of the Format Bar dialog, click the Shape pick list and select an alternate symbol that you want to use to represent a cancelled task, such as the solid circle shape shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5: Format Bar dialog – select a Shape value
- In the Start section of the Format Bar dialog, click the Color pick list and select a color other than black. Click the OK button when finished.
- Click the row header for the cancelled task to select the entire task row.
- In the lower-right corner of the Font section of the Task ribbon, click the Font Dialog Launcher button (it looks like a little arrow).
- In the Font dialog, select the Strikethrough checkbox, such as shown in Figure 6. Click the OK button to apply the Strikethrough font formatting.
Figure 6: Font dialog
- Double-click the task and then click the Notes tab in the Task Information dialog.
- On the Notes page of the Task Information dialog, add a note to document the reason for cancelling the task, and then click the OK button.
Figure 7 shows the Provide End User Support task after cancelling the task using the preceding method in the Standard version of Microsoft Project.
Figure 7: Provide End User Support task is cancelled