What percentage done are you?

Great post from one of my first-ever bosses, Mr Gary Corby – The three numbers that scare me: 90, 95 and 99. It also reminds me of a team-building exercise I once participated in. In each team, there was basically a manager, a middle manager and three minions. The three minions could only talk to the middle manager and the middle manager could only talk to the manager – all via post-it notes. Each team was given a different set of instructions and told to complete the task. The trick was that only the manager at the top had the complete set of instructions.

So of course this led to the minions at the bottom getting very confused, the middle manager getting swamped in post-it notes and the top manager wondering why nobody was getting the job done on time (sound familiar?). Every now and again, a supervisor would walk by and ask the top manager “what percentage done” they were. The interesting thing was that, despite almost all of the managers having no clue how done they were, they would give them a number – anywhere from 10% to 99%.

So what value does a percentage status update really have? Well hey, you tell me, I don’t have all the answers.