As you manage your projects, you need to know the status of particular tasks. Depending of who you work with, you will (or have) come across the “Everything is fine” answer.
Chances are, not everything is fine, because the definition of that word is different for everyone:
Varies with what you do
As a project manager, your definition of “fine” concentrates on all aspect of the project (at least it should!), but for a colleague, a developer for example, his definition of “fine” probably concentrates on his part, a feature he’s currently developing for example, and not the feature he hasn’t started yet but should have done two days ago.
Ask the right questions to make sure you receive the right answers.
Varies with experience
People with less experience or less confidence may be scared of your reaction if they tell you that are having problems, so they tend to cover it up until the very last-minute.
To avoid this, you want to make sure your colleagues know the impact of doing this, and to flag anything wrong as soon as possible.
Varies with how close you are to “clients”
Some roles are closer to client communication then others; which makes it easier to be in its shoes. Others never even see clients, so they are not aware of how it works, how clients have expectations, or how they can react when something goes wrong.
It’s important that everyone be aware of the client’s point of view so they can consider it when working, and when they give you a status.
For example, a box that is displayed 5 pixels too much on the left using IE may not be important, so it may not be mentioned, but for the client, who is using IE, he will notice, and won’t like it.
Make sure you receive a clear status of what you need to know, and know that “everything is fine” is a sign to dig deeper.
If you still have any doubts, then verify yourself, or have your colleague show it to you, and you’ll can come up with your own status. You can avoid awful surprises like this.