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Milestones – General


All projects of any length will be broken down into stages often referred to as milestones.
There will be a progress review at each milestone.
Without this, control will be lacking and project success will be unlikely.

The breakdown of the schedule into major milestones will depend on the exact nature of the project and will often coincide with natural breaks in the project.
The overall plan should not reflect a ‘glory or bust’ approach.

There is another advantage in producing milestones.
The ability to review the project progress allows management to demonstrate steady gains and to give people due credit for their efforts.
This will in turn improve morale.
This will, of course, be no substitute for good leadership [see ‘The Complete Leadership package‘] and motivation [see 'The Complete Motivation package‘] skills.

In addition, without proper points for review senior management will have no control over the state of the project.
This creates necessary visibility for senior management.
For PRINCE2® [see ‘The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2’] this will be the Project Board.

A project is ultimately judged by final success or failure.
However, there must be milestones before it reaches the end which represent significant result points.
All milestones must be agreed as part of the overall approval for the project to proceed.
This is the province of the Project Board.

At each milestone decisions must be made.
These would typically be:

  1. Yes. The project carries on to the next stage and everything is on track.
  2. No. The project is stopped and closed in a formal manner.
  3. Maybe. In this case, more data is required before a further review may allow the project to continue.

These are referred to in more detail under Exit Criteria.

It is important at critical decision milestones to agree the criteria for success.
The decision to go ahead will rely on satisfactory 'deliverables' for the current stage objectives and a suitable plan for the next stage.
Once approval has been given resources can be released for the next stage of the project.

Just before a milestone is due there should be a suitable trigger to prepare a more detailed plan and schedule for the next stage.
This will be required for approval to proceed to the next stage.
This is horizon planning [see 'The Complete Risk Management package‘].

In summary, a milestone provides a visible means of demonstrating progress and assessing what modifications may be needed to progress the project further.
It provides an opportunity for those outside of the project management team to find out what is happening.
Remember, aspects of your project might affect other projects.

It ensures that projects are results orientated with an emphasis of reducing unnecessary expenditure and wastage of resource.
The work itself becomes more manageable.
Responsibilities will be known at all levels of management.

The completion of a milestone should be readily verifiable because everyone will have agreed the criteria for them being met.
This should leave no doubt as to their achievement.
If this is not the case then the criteria were poorly designed.
Milestones will tend to be spaced at regular intervals but should not be too frequent.

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