Project Milestones

Micro Learning Unit

A milestone originally (as far back as Roman times) was a landmark that testified to a traveler where he is in relation to the destination he is interested in reaching (and in those days all roads led to Rome of course), and according to that milestone he would make a decision on how to proceed in his journey.

The idea of a “milestone” was and remains exactly the same when it comes to a project. The milestone serves as a marker on the basis of which decisions are made in the project. It is a stopping point, control, communication and decision and therefore, the milestones in the project are important and real attention should be paid in determining them. A good list of milestones will serve as a significant tool for control and communication in the project – especially with its key stakeholders who are not in the small details of the project and should not be.

The milestones in the project are better articulated in the past tense to describe a goal achieved so as not to confuse with the activities in the project.

There are three methods to identify and define milestones in a project:

#1 The Automatic
This method suggests that a milestone be set every time there is a ‘seam’ in the project. Seams can be found where there are transitions from stage to stage or from team to team within the project. For example, completion of the planning stage is a milestone found in the seam between the planning stage of the project and the stage that follows it.
#2 The Pre-defined
This method refers to all the milestones that have already been defined as part of the project’s contracts and connections, especially any that might affect its timing. Since these milestones have already been defined, it is simply necessary to insert them in the appropriate place within the project. For example, paying for a mock-up might be a contractual condition for continuing work on the project and it affects the timing of the project. Therefore, this has to appear as a milestone in the work plan.
#3 The Project initiated
This method refers to additional milestones identified as important within the project’s framework to support the project’s control and communication systems. Applying this method requires careful thought and deliberation. For example, approving signs for an office design project is not necessarily a contractual milestone nor is it a natural milestone found in one of the project’s seams, but it is an important control and communication tool and should be identified as such.

It’s important to remember!

The list of the main milestones in the project should describe the evolution of the project from A to Z. At the same time, it must be concise so that it can be displayed on a timeline and be used to perform trend analysis control. Additional milestones will appear in the work plan of the project as required but the main milestones should be identified and determined already in its early stages.

Key milestones that are common to many projects in the organization, will add value to the organization’s horizontal control processes.

In conclusion,

The list of milestones in the project is a key tool in planning, control and communication in the project and it should be focused first and foremost on the main aspects in the project that are important to highlight and bring to the attention of senior officials and the client. This list will be part of the lifecycle table of the project and will also appear in the roles and responsibilities matrix.