Every Task is Complete or Not Complete

This reminds me of my hero of project management, Tom DeMarco.

Tom DeMarco (born August 20, 1940) is an American software engineer, author, and consultant on software engineering topics. He was an early developer of structured analysis in the 1970s.

His approach was that every task is either 100% complete or 0% complete.

No task is ever “80%” complete. If you really think that it is, then break it down into smaller tasks, 80% of which are 100% complete and 20% of which are 0% complete. This way it becomes much clearer what is complete and what remains to be done.

I have never allowed anyone to report anything as n% complete for values other than 0 or 100. As soon as someone does, that’s a pretty good sign that they may be confusing motion with action.

Remember an old discussion with Jim…

Me: Jim, how are we doing with getting Ansys ported?
Jim: Great, I have a bunch of calls into them.
Me: How are we doing on the Nastran port?
Jim: Wonderful, they said they'll get back to me next month.
Me: How about Dyna 3D?
Jim: It's going great, we're on their list.

Now imagine how much different that conversation would be if each question started with, “Which tasks are complete and which tasks are incomplete?”