After estimating the man hours/work for an unfamiliar task, how would I go about gauging and reporting on progress?

1 Answer 1


I tend to be an "all or nothing type" when it comes to reporting status. IMHO status reports (often based on gantt charts) that contain tasks like:

Task           |  Duration   | % Complete
Build Widget   |  2 months   | 25%
Build Gadget   |  3 months   | 50%

are mostly worthless. If building a widget takes two months and you absolutely positively can't break this up into discrete tasks because it's so opaque, then I would say for starters you can add that to your risk list, because your team is working on tasks they probably don't understand. That said, how to report this? Build widget is 0% complete until it's delivered. Then it's 100% complete.

People are naturally optimistic. If you try to guess % complete on a task that is truly "unfamiliar" you are more than likely going to fall into the trap of being 90% complete for 90% of the task duration.

If you have to report progress more often, then either:

  1. Break the long task into smaller tasks that result in something tangible so that you can update status based on the completion of each subtask.
  2. Resist the urge to report a percentage and instead communicate the work associated with the task.
  • 1
    Agree - '% complete' is somewhat subjective. Perhaps some progress scale like 'Not Started', 'In Progress', 'Stalled', 'Complete' or 'Cancelled' is more helpful. Once a task is being worked on, budget/resource is being used up; if it's Stalled, then that's a PM alarm bell due to dependencies. Feb 8, 2011 at 17:12

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