Craig Brown hates it when he sees people report their work was 90% done for weeks in a row.

The question is whether or not it is possible for a task to be 90% complete. When considering a completion of a Work Package, work is either Done or it is Not Done. My favorite approach for progress monitoring is as follows:

Before work commences progress is obviously 0%.

When work commences, progress is recorded as 50%, and remains so until the complete work is done.

Once the task is fully complete progress is recorded as 100%.

This removes any ambiguity from progress reports.

I value your comments, if you have any thoughts on the above please join in and share with others!

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  1. Pingback: Shim Marom

  2. A 100 point scale only makes sense if you are going to use it. The actual percent complete at any time is not so important but it is the trend or progress that can be observed and therefore managed over the time scale. It becomes increasingly important as as the scale and complexity of the tasks being measured increases. To be able to determine at a glance the progress and potential impediments to a successful completion. of a task/project is critical in managing a project. If you are just going to go 0, 50 and 100 you might as well use not started, in progress and completed. But this tells the user nothing that is of any value and forces you to drill into the detail when that may not be necessary.


  3. Pingback: Torsten J. Koerting

  4. The Earned Value System Descriptions used by US Defense and Space contractors defines an apportioned milestone measurement approach where predefined percentages complete can be used instead of 0/100.

    It is important that the apportioned milestones be “predefined” before the work is started. But the majority of “activities” inside a Work Package are measured as 0/100.

    Another little known fact for the space and defense business is that all Work packages can only cross one accounting period. This means the WP is limited to 60 calendar days or 45 (or so) work days.

    The key here – no matter how you decide to measure PHYSICAL PERCENT COMPLETE (and it has to be physical) is the answer the question “how long are you willing to wait to find out you’re late?” Then set the measurement points accordingly.

    On large NASA programs the answer to that is One (1) Week! We do weekly earned value every Thursday with the Control Account Managers. Then a mid-month “flash report” is sent to NASA and the standard month end 533M report. So twice a month a formal assessment of ETC and EAC is done around a weekly assessment of physical progress.

    This seem;s like a lot of work and it is. But the launch date is booked for mid November 2014 and there are billions of $’s of sunk cost that must be recovered with the successful launch.

    For IT projects, I’ve seen behaviors that would cause contract cancellation in NASA.


  5. All good points! It pained me in a past job to have to show a ‘percentage complete’ number that wasn’t zero or 100. I felt like I was just playing around with some numbers to produce something that was completely meaningless. I agree that it’s better to just report an estimate of how many hours to complete.


  6. Dina,
    This is why in the Space and Defense businesses and other US Government and large construction domains the role of “program controls” separates the “doing” of the work from the “reporting” of the progress of the work. The Program Planning and Controls staff also maintains the integrity of the Performance Measurement Baseline (PMB), which is a time phased description of the cost, schedule and technical performance.

    Here’s some introductory background


  7. Pingback: Shim Marom

  8. Pingback: Project / Task progress report – can a task be 90% done? | quantmleap Report Me

  9. Pingback: Shim Marom

  10. Pingback: Shim Marom

  11. I always remember someone I worked with whose mantra was…

    “completion is like death… it’s a binary event”

    In our planning tool ( we have three categories for an action… Not Started, Started or Complete.

    Another tip… next time someone tells you that they have completed something try saying something along the lines of “That’s great, what little bits are left to finish off” – you’d be surprised how often people says it’s complete when they actually mean its almost complete.


    • Hi Jim, thanks for your comment. I fully support your comment with the last paragraph in particular, reminding me a project I was working on when one of the developers made a comment about the state of the completion of one of his tasks that “…it’s done, but not done-done’. So you are absolutely correct, it is not unusual for project resources to say that a task is complete when in-fact it is not quite there.

      Cheers, Shim.


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