Tim Bryce THE 99% COMPLETE
It is an undocumented fact that the last 1% of
anything takes longer than the other 99%.
There are plenty of examples to support this
argument, perhaps none quite as visible as the
progress bars we see on computers. You
know, those little bars telling you how you are
progressing in the installation of software or
the execution of a program. More often than
not, such progress bars seem to race through
the first 99% like a blazing track star, yet when
we get to that last 1% it seems to slow down to
a snail's pace.
I have also witnessed this same phenomenon
in project management situations. As we were
building our office in Florida our contractor
proudly proclaimed he was 99% complete and
we should prepare ourselves to move in.
Interestingly, that last 1% dragged on for days,
weeks, and even a few months, thereby
delaying inspections and prohibiting our move.
In the Information Technology field, it is
difficult to get a realistic picture of how much
work remains on a project. Programmers love
to announce they are 99% complete in writing
their programs, but somehow that last 1%
never seems to come to conclusion. Either
something was wrong in the design of their
software they hadn't anticipated, something
had changed, or gremlins had compounded
their best efforts. Regardless, the project never
This phenomenon is related to our perspective
on work, specifically, "Is the glass half empty
or half filled?" Instead of focusing on the work
completed, people should be more concerned
with the amount of effort remaining. For
example, instead of asking about percentages,
workers should be constantly evaluating the
amount of effort required to complete
remaining tasks in hours. Only after this is
known should we consider the application of
percentages, not before. Unfortunately, that is
not the mindset in most project environments.
Instead, people tend to consider the amount of
work expended against the original estimate,
not the remaining effort. This is certainly not a
realistic or reliable way of reporting progress.
It is pure fantasy.
Surprisingly, there are still quite a few project
management packages allowing people to post
percentages as opposed to automatically
calculating it based on the estimate of hours
remaining on project tasks which is simply
So, next time you hear someone claim they are
99% complete with something, it means they still
have a long way to go and the person hasn't got a
clue when it will be completed, but it's
close...maybe. Ask yourself this, when was the last
time you saw the final two minutes of a football
game finish within 120 seconds? I've never seen it
"The last 1% of a project can take as long as the
first 99%." - Bryce's Law
Keep the Faith!