Managing Projects & Milestones
When you are in charge of planning and executing a major work project, defined as an important assignment with a number of people and steps required, establishing Milestones is an important technique. The definition for a “milestone” needs to be looked at in the context of the underlying cornerstones of project planning. Cornerstones represent distinct sections of the project plan. Usually, a complex project will have several sub-set objectives that run concurrently with one another. As an example, a project to develop a new product might have three cornerstones for : Product Design, Marketing and one for Training. Any or all of these may have opportunities for Milestones.
The milestone would be made up of two components. First, a specific objective that needs to be accomplished as part of moving the main project to conclusion. Second, that objective needs to be completed at a specific point in time in order for the entire project to remain on schedule and for other Cornerstones to be able to move forward. You could look at it this way. The Over-all Goal of the Project is to achieve something (new product, re-organization, strategic plan, etc.) by a specific End-Date. When building the Project Plan, you will identify all the sub-set Cornerstones that are separate and distinct segments of the project plan that must all be completed and come together in the end.
Once you have these separate and distinct “tracks” identified, and action steps with time-lines for each, you will then pinpoint any objectives & due dates at which point you should be “this far along” in order to be right on schedule. Suppose the over-all Project must be completed by October 30th. One of the distinct sub-set tracks is to have a Marketing Plan for the new Product. You might determine that for the over-all marketing plan to be completed by Oct. 30th. (on time for the over-all project to be completed) you will need the initial market research done by July 1st in order for the final Marketing Plan to be done by Oct.30th. So the Milestone hear is to have the Market Research completed by July 1st. When July 1st comes along and the action steps you have delegated have been accomplished, you have met this important Milestone which will keep everything on track for the Over-all Project.
Advantages of Setting Project Timetables and Key Measures
There are some very important advantages to establishing meaningful Milestones:
- By breaking the over-all Project Plan down into all the distinct sub-set project cornerstones you have a clear project plan. Within each Cornerstone, when you identify important milestones, you have a significantly improved measure of control to know that your execution is on track. You can visually see and monitor progress toward getting to the milestone.
- Major projects with long tails to the completion date are more difficult for the manager to try to maintain current focus (in the hear-and-now) by the team. The distant deadline is easily out of sight and out of mind. With Milestones established for sub-set objectives, you have a completion date that is closer the hear-and-now and will increase urgency and focus.
- The milestones give the manager the control and the opportunity to uncover any “slippage” in the execution of a sub-objective. The manager can intercede and influence over-coming roadblocks or issues that would otherwise derail the project.
- Completion of these milestones can be motivating for your employees. The team can be recognized sooner for accomplishing an important milestone and this is both a motivator and a morale booster. They feel…”okay, we accomplished an important assignment on time and are in a strong position to move forward to achieving the over-all objective.”
- The achievement of these Milestones is also a plus for the manager with his/her senior managers. Those at the top will be able to see that important progress has been made and that the project is on track for the final objective.
A project manager who establishes important Milestones for each sub-set of the over-all project has put themselves and their team in a much better position to stay on top of progress, keep the coordination and execution of the project plan on schedule and have opportunities to recognize and call attention to the team’s progress. Maintaining the “Velocity of Execution” on important projects is substantially enhanced by managing to Milestones.
Featured Image /Pixabay / CC BY CCO Public Domain