More Milestones or Fewer?

Which type of milestone?

“Big” milestones mark significant events or moments in your project of change programme.  They indicate you have achieved something noteworthy, or are ready to start something important.  Equally, they can mark a key decision, or the resolution of a major uncertainty.

If you are wondering: what other type of milestone is there?” then you need to come to one of my seminars – click here for details.

Milestones first …

Setting in place milestones is often one of the first planning activities we undertake. Indeed, for a deadline driven project (my own speciality), it’s frequently the first.

… and only?

For smaller projects, many project and change managers use nothing else – and that is just fine, if it works for your project.  I know that not all my readers work on large projects.

Project Milestones – it’s all a matter of style

So one question I am often asked is “how many milestones should I set, Mike?” I have often been tempted to answer with reference to a piece of string but, having seen a recent Horizon documentary on BBC2,  I never will be again.

So here is the answer I do give: “It’s all a matter of style.”

Some project managers feel that using too many milestones is inelegant – perhaps even crass.  It also creates what some see as an un-necessary straight-jacket on the project; forcing too much attention on time-lines, which can lead to a resultant temptation to micro-manage the tiniest slippage.  Where are the opportunities for flair and innovation.

Others prefer to use more milestones.  I declare myself in this camp.  Though open to the criticism of being overly controlling (guilty, maybe), they also believe that milestones serve a great purpose in focusing attention on progress.  And, to prevent an excessive focus on small slippage, I like to place a small contingency between the last activity in a sequence, and the milestone that caps the sequence.

The Best Reason for more Milestones …

… is this:  Each milestone achieved is a success.  You can celebrate each success with your team and your stakeholders.  More milestones: more celebrations.  More celebrations: more motivated team and your stakeholders are better convinced of the reality of the change you are promoting.

… which leads to greater self confidence and stronger performance among your team and, ultimately, a better project.

This Particularly applies to Organisational Change Projects

As for your stakeholders; when they can see progress, your supporters will have reason to cheer, your detractors will have their doubts undermined, and your agnostics will have evidence that you can succeed.

The “so what?”

Make use of more milestones; be liberal with them,  They don’t have resources attached, so they are free!

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