Home > Microsoft Project, Uncategorized > Part 1 – Microsoft Project Tutorial – Understanding Work, Duration, Unit

Part 1 – Microsoft Project Tutorial – Understanding Work, Duration, Unit

Before you even think about using Microsoft Project for your planning, you must grasp the concepts Work, Duration and Units. The reason for this is if you don’t understand this, you will probably use the program the wrong way.

  • Work = Number of manhours needed to complete a task
  • Duration = Length in calender time needed to complete a task
  • Units = Part of resource’s time needed to complete a task

Much about completing tasks, wouldn’t you say? And yes, these concepts are connected:

Work = Duration * Unit

In other words, the number of man hours needed is the result of the time spent times the focus factor of the resources. So if a resource works a normal 8 hours day, this can be an example:

16h =2d *8*1

(If you work two days full time on a task, you will spend 16 hours.

But how do I find this in Project?

Well, first, you need to make some settings changes. Start Microsoft Project and select Tools—>Options. Select the Schedule tab. Change the default task type to Fixed Work:


Confirm with OK.

Next is changing the column settings. Make sure that you view the Gantt Chart view (menu View and Gantt chart should be selected).

Then select the Start column and select Insert—>Column (you can also right click a column and select Insert).

The dialog box below should be visible. In the top menu, you can select which column you want to insert. If you haven’t realized this before, you might now understand that Project is a complex application with loads of fields. Scroll down in the menu and select the field Work:


Confirm with OK.

Your table part of the view should now look something like this:


So, now you can see duration and you can see work, but where is unit?

In the toolbar, you’ll find a butcon with two faces. Click this:


The dialog box below becomes visible. You can enter the name of a resource and confirm with Enter. You now have one resource in your project.


Select the Task field on the first row in the Gantt chart view table and enter the name of the first task. Confirm with Enter. Complete a short list, for example:


As you can see, when entering the names of tasks, they are given an unique ID (left column) and a duration. The question mark just visualize that you haven’t changed the value manual, but you can do that.

To get the equation working, we need a resource. So what you do is that you select a row in the Gantt chart view table and you select a row in the Assign resources dialog and click Assign:


When you’ve clicked Assign you can see the assignment, work has been calculated and units has been set: (8h=1d*8*1)


Observe that if you select another row in the Gantt chart, the resource is not longer marked as assigned.

Now, we come to the fun part. This is an equation, so how about we go changing the values. Start with changing the value of Units:


What happened was that Duration changed, but the equation is still valid. But what happens if we change Duration?


Hm, Units seems to change. So, what have we learnt? We have learnt that if you change duration, units is also changed and the opposite also applies. But why does not work change? The reason for this was the first setting we made: we set the task type to Fixed Work. This means that work only changes manually.

This is not the default setting, but it really should be. In most projects I’ve been involved in, this is the most common case. I’ll get back to the other cases later. But for now, just have fun with your equations and also try adding resources:


  1. 2011/05/16 at 10:32 pm

    are your MS Project files still available.

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