From 99% to 100% complete is not 1%

A Harvard Business Review blog by Dan Pallotta, The Last One Percent that Kills You, reminded me of all those projects where we thought we had almost finished, only to find that the effort right at the end was far more than we expected so close to finishing.

A lot of that effort arises due to issues that we had thought were finalised, but weren’t. For project managers, Pallotta’s advice is:

    • Beware the tacit agreement … We’ve all experienced a thousand conversations in which neither of us understood what was just said, but we both just let it go and implicitly hope for the best …
    • Develop a Pavlovian reaction to the words “I think.” When someone says “I think” it usually means they don’t have a clue, or are guessing, or even hoping. It’s in that space that an important detail gets dropped.
    • Have multiple conversations about the same thing … People forget things, and clarity can degrade into mush after just a few days …
    • Fill in the blanks. Repeat back what other people say in conversation and ask them to confirm what they said. Make sure you get a definitive answer …
    • Speak like an air-traffic controller [adopt the rigour of the language used by control towers and pilots – i.e., clarity and preciseness of communication]
    • Visualize disaster. Talk explicitly with your team about what could go wrong in each area …

If you want more good project manager tips, check out the über-project manager Glenn Alleman, or Josh Nankivel.


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