A lot of time and resources go into managing a project – and this process is never easy. There are many tasks that you need to divide up, while also making sure you are meeting deadlines. Meanwhile, you will be working together with both clients and teammates to ensure your project’s success.
However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In order to do everything well and on time, you just need to organize well. Breaking up the whole process into smaller, less complicated tasks is always a useful thing – but project plan milestones are becoming more and more essential as well.
These are something you should strive to achieve and represent a great resting point for the whole team. In order to utilize them, though, you need to use them correctly. That’s why today we are going to show you how to set good project milestones and how to add them to your plan.
Before delving deep into the makings of good project milestones, we need to go over what they actually represent. A lot of project managers – even experienced ones – often mix these with project goals. This only creates confusion, so it is imperative to understand just what you are working with when it comes to project milestones.
By definition, milestones are specific points you can set up along your project timeline. They are something your team should look forward to achieving and getting to. However, although they sound like project goals, there are a couple of specific differences. Goals are something that looks towards your future – it is something that you work for. Milestones, on the other hand, are points that, when you achieve them, you can look back at the whole process.
Similarly, you do not need to set aside time to complete Milestones. Instead, they are like checkpoints that happen on your way to meeting your project goals. You might even think of them as rungs on a ladder – they are something you pass along as you climb up towards your ultimate goal.
Set god project milestones to reap many benefits
There are many advantages that you can get from good milestones. First, they are a powerful tool for examining your project’s progress and workflow. This is their main function. After you reach a milestone, make sure to look back at what you did and evaluate. Use this time to identify exactly what you have done before you start a new phase in your project.
This way, you might be able to adjust your workflow and improve your team’s efficiency and productivity in the rest of the project. Milestones offer a small evaluation point that helps you shape up and touch up the things you might not be satisfied with.
Furthermore, good project milestones can give you a clear overview of how well you are moving forward in your project. You can also use them in this way to motivate your team and reevaluate the project priorities. Similarly, you can use them to boost your reports to clients and shareholders. Improving your feedback will greatly improve your relationship with them, too.
All good project milestones are made up of three factors
One big difference between good and bad project milestones is their “structure”. Understanding what they are made of will help you define good milestones and make them work to your advantage. Knowing what they are will also be beneficial to setting good project milestones. The three main factors to think about are:
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Do not make your milestones too frequent
There is a danger that comes with the number of milestones you use. Yes, they can be extremely helpful in many aspects of a project, however, they can also come at a cost. This is why it is extremely important to think about how often you set up your milestones.
You do not want them after each task. Reevaluating at every corner will simply take too much time. This can lower productivity and can even render the milestones ineffective. Instead, you will want to spread your milestones out during the project and make them less frequent.
The rule of thumb says that you should divide your project into different “phases”. These are bigger parts that collect similar tasks – like planning, gathering resources, project execution, and so on. Then, you will want to set up a milestone at the end of each phase. This is how you will get the best insight into the whole process.
Similarly, think about your milestones’ timing
The timing of your milestones goes hand in hand with their frequency. If your project phases are quite short, then you might want to skip on a milestone or two along the way. Therefore, time is another huge factor you need a good grasp on to set good project milestones.
You do not want to be reevaluating your project more than you are actually working on it, so make sure to spread out your milestones time-wise as well. Instead, make them a bit more challenging to achieve – and make the process take longer. Instead, you are just turning them into another task for your team to tackle, which is never a fun thing.
Finally, transparency is another huge factor in setting up good project milestones. Your team should know what the milestones are – as well as who has what task to handle. This way, you are boosting your team’s responsibility by a huge margin. Once everyone knows your tasks, you will want to ensure you are completing them on time.
This also fosters a bit of friendly competition. With a level of transparency, some people will even try to be as effective as possible – and thus be better than their teammates. However, it’s important to monitor this and keep it friendly. You do not want this turning negative, because it can cause your project to come to a screeching halt.
Adding milestones to your project plan
Now that you know what makes good project milestones, it’s time to learn how to add these to your plan. This is a question that many have because the answer doesn’t seem that obvious. Do you shape up the plan around milestones, or do you place them on top of a plan like they are a sticky note?
Fortunately, the latter is often the case. You can easily apply a milestone to any type of project, at any time of the process. However, project milestones are especially useful in the scheduling phase, because they can help you put the spotlight around target dates.
Finally, the last thing to consider is adding some special activities around milestones. Many offices hold small celebrations for achieving a milestone. In this way, you can boost the morale of your team and build collaboration. In turn, you will improve the team’s productivity, which only sets you up for success in future projects!
About the author: Petar Djordjevic is currently pursuing a master’s degree in General Mathematics. He has written dozens of posts about project management and workflow optimization and is working as a content writer at Nifty, an amazing project management tool. When he is not doing Math or writing about projects, Petar enjoys acting and writing science fiction.