Project Milestones and the Project Team

June 8, 2009 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Milestones

Project Milestones and the Project Team
By João Almeida

I was recently discussing the need for milestone visibility. Strange topic to be discussing, but it happened! The conversation begun as I was making a point to allow the PM tool (in this case MS Project) to calculate the milestone date based on the tasks dependencies and how easy it was to have this information available and updated. My audience questioned why should the project team need milestones!

Better to have questioned why do we need to breath.

Milestone visibility to the project team was viewed as a side issue. The team needs to focus on the technical work and not on the management issues like budget and dates.

This out-dated view of the world is still alive.

Currently not to have any kind of process (like milestone updates) on a project so the project team can have as much time as possible to make the technical work can lead only to one outcome. Sooner or later the time spent on the correction of error/quality problems is going to increase due to errors made early on the project making the project end-date to be missed.

Imagine this, only the project end-date is set. The team starts to work and the product is released on time but with many problems due to low quality control so the end date can be reached. Because no intermediate control points where established no prediction of this situation was made.

As we all know errors are easier and cheaper to correct early on the project than later, for this reason processes as milestone control can help visualize schedule variances and make the team more accountable for their performance early on the project.

Compare the no-process approach with a team that early in the project establishes a set of milestones and control it early. The team will follow up any variances and take any corrective action so the target dates are accomplished not only the end date. In the long run, this will increase quality and project visibility to the outside stakeholders.

João Almeida is currently working for Microsoft Portugal as an Engagement Manager for the Public sector. His personal blog can be found at

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2 people have left comments

I totally agree, and learned (the hard way unfortunately) about the importance of making sure my team members were aware of how we were doing against the schedule, if we were running late, what the approximate launch date might be, etc. At that time I didn’t feel like it was necessary to constantly remind my team of all of the milestones and instead let them focus on their specific tasks and check in to see how much they thought they had left to go, if the task took more time than expected, etc.

Then one day, one of my programmers was in the elevator with the president of the company (it was a small agency, 25 people) and the prez asked when the project would be launching. I don’t remember how close we were to launching at that point, but far enough away that this programmer couldn’t answer the question (and his mind was probably on the lunch he just finished, and not the project launch date, I figured that was my job). Anyway, I got a mouthful from the prez later that day, telling me how critical it was that all of my team was aware of the milestone dates at all times.

As I mentioned, I didn’t totally agree and preferred to keep them focused on short term goals. But, ever since then I would prep my team at all status meetings and ask them (with the tone of a 4th grade teacher) “If you’re ever riding the elevator and someone asks you when the project will launch, what are you going to tell them?!”

On a related note, I would recommend using LiquidPlanner as a project management tool to help make sure your project team is always aware of deadlines and milestones. Unlike MS Project where they will need to install the software and will be afraid to update the gantt if a task takes longer than estimated (because we know that happens sometimes, and I know the programmers I’ve worked with are afriad to touch MS project), LiquidPlanner has an easy to use web interface that anyone can log into and update their tasks and see how it affects upcoming milestones. There are cute little flame icons that will display next to a task if it is at risk of not being met.

Better to see the little flames when they are little than have them turn into big fires that need fighting!

Dina wrote on June 10, 2009 - 12:33 pm | Visit Link

Couldn’t agree more. I have (very successfully) managed projects with nothing but milestones visible. In one sense, the milestones are the only important parts — if they are handled (identified, set-up, aligned) correctly.

William W. (Woody) Williams wrote on June 10, 2009 - 4:56 pm | Visit Link

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