What does it mean when one reports a status of "fine" in their work or project? The first assumption is to take this at face value - there are no problems. But what does it mean really?
The Manager Tools guys had a great discussion about this recently in the podcast entry from mid-August, Feedback on Status Reporting - Nothing is "Fine". You can guess their take on "fine" from the title. I enjoyed how they talked about this.
Reporting a status as "fine" implies that the manager (to whom one is reporting "fine") doesn't need to intervene and shouldn't worry. The problem is that "fine" doesn't give the manager (and the rest of the organization) enough information to work with.
Both parties are complicit here. The manager for regularly accepting "fine" and the person giving ambiguous information. "Fine" can be interpreted many different ways: does it mean we will be done on time for sure? Could it mean that it may be early? There are no issues? Minimal issues? It's a way to keep management at arms length... until there is a problem.
What happens when the work goes sideways? When does the manager or the organization find out? Often, it is only when there is almost nothing left to do, other than accept a delay and take your lumps. This sounds a lot like a watermelon project.
Don't accept "fine" as a status report. Ask for more information - information that you can act upon.
In a related idea, I mentioned the podcast to a friend, and he related a story about visiting a winery. When the vintner asked the guests what they thought about the wine, they said, "It's fine." The vintner was distraught - all this effort into making beautiful wine, and all they could say was "fine?"