On today’s PMChat, we chatted about how we can make positive, proactive use of milestones to help manage and present our projects. We spoke about how milestones can help us mark progress, highlight important deliverables and flag critical events.
The topic was inspired by Graham Allcott (“How to be a Productivity Ninja”) who says that a “perfect project plan” has no more than 5 milestones & that we manage all the other things as Dependencies. This gives us food for thought!
As always, I’ve included my replies in italics. Please feel free to join the chat and add your replies!
We came back to Allcott a little later, but in the meantime we started by thinking about how you use milestones in your planning and how many milestones YOU need on your projects.
On the face of it, this seems crazy but if I think it through, the idea has merit – rolling up “checkpoints”, “deliverables” etc into a small set of overarching milestones. Worth considering
I do like the idea of a high level set of Uber-milestones like this. Not sure I’m ready to step away from my list of milestones for each lifecycle phase, but I’m certainly open to the idea
Setting aside the number, let’s think about how you use milestones
Yes, I’ve known PMs who don’t baseline their plans and dates & hence can’t track slippage. Seems crazy to me, I don’t know how you can manage your plan without baselining. #ClimbingOnMyPedestal #CalmDownTony
I re-baseline the plan (including tasks and milestones) at the conclusion of each lifecycle phase, part of my stage gates
On smaller projects, I manage my own milestone closures, but on larger projects I have the PMO and my Project Board review and approve – there are normally financial triggers hanging off the milestones, hence the extra QA
Milestones signify completion of work but can also trigger commencement of a new work package. This can make their approval more complicated. Next question discusses this further.
On larger projects, I present my milestones to PMO and Project Board (which includes a Finance person) to review/approve. This recognises that I often have financial triggers hanging off the milestones
Finally, let’s think about whether milestones need to be tied to specific, tangible “things”, or whether they can be used to show non-specific progress. Allcott uses 5 by rolling up progress to a couple of abstract milestones – “Establishment’ or “Mid-way” etc
Q7. Should milestones only flag tangible events? Can you use Dependencies to track work packages & then roll up progress to a couple of overall milestones? Do “Establishment” or “Mid-way” milestones make sense?
I really like the idea of milestones for tangible work packages, and also rolled up “progress” indicators. I think there’s room for both. IMO the milestone remains an anchor point in the plan, it depends how we choose to use those anchors
I’m thinking of trying colour coding so that I can call out the “rolled up” milestones from the “work package” milestones
You’re always welcome to join the chat each week – you can find us on Twitter with the #PMChat hashtag every Tuesday (US) and Wednesday (Europe, Asia, Australian and New Zealand).