How to Plan Effectively: Project Milestones 101
When you’re working on a project, it’s important to plan effectively by setting project milestones. Milestones allow perspective of where you are during each phase of your project. They can be set to a timeline, so you can easily track your team’s progress through each project stage.
Make milestones relevant and motivating
Milestones can be difficult to decide and designate in a way both you and your team agree upon because they are based on the time spent to complete and the effort expended to reach each goal.
To create a list of potential milestones, you also must know what traits these mini objectives should have. Involve your team in defining the milestones to create better buy-in for the project.
9 Must-have Milestone Criteria
- Specific – When you create a milestone, you should be instantly able to determine what needs to happen to complete the milestone.
- Measurable – To complete any milestone, you must be able to know when it is successfully completed.
TIP: Use a to-do list!
- Attainable – Each milestone must be realistic. Otherwise, you’ll find your team stuck and unmotivated in one phase for a long time.
- Relevant – Each milestone should bring you a step closer to the fruition of your project. If a milestone isn’t from the original objective of completing your project, then it shouldn’t be considered as a milestone. Instead, put it in the side projects box and focus on what’s necessary.
- Timely – Each milestone needs an expected timeframe of completion. If you don’t specify the date it should be finished, you and your team won’t feel the urgency to complete it – and the project will drag on.
- Open – Make sure that each milestone can be clearly understood by the members of the team and all those who are directly or indirectly involved in the project. Avoid technical jargon as it may alienate and confuse others.
- Assignable – In creating a milestone, each member must know if they are involved in the project or not and what’s expected of them. This increases accountability as you’ll know who should’ve taken care of what aspect of the project.
- Progressive – As stated earlier, a set of milestones should move as a timeline. The completion of one will instantaneously move your team forward to the next task, and so forth.
- Significant – If your milestones are too small, it may feel like you’re just giving your team a list of tasks to do in chronological order. Worse, it could feel like stalling. Make sure that the achievement of each milestone means completion of a considerable or significant amount of your project.
Be focused, yet flexible
Depending on the size and demands of the project, the timeline for achieving milestones needs to be open to adjustments. That said, before the project starts, it’s a good idea to have already planned out a tentative project completion date, allowing for added time.
Managing your team
After each milestone is defined, you’ll also need to provide specific to-do lists and assign them to a team member.
- Project Management Software tools such as Asana and Basecamp are useful for assigning tasks and providing an overview of where milestones are reaching targets and which ones are falling behind and may require more resources.
- Team communication tools like Slack can improve productivity and speed up workflow.
- Allocate adequate resources (time, money, location, staff, etc.) to each milestone to ensure success and keep motivation flowing.
- Creating a ritual such as ringing a bell or playing a team song with the completion of each milestone will keep the energy engaged.
Project milestones are an essential element of a successful project. Learning how to plan effectively is a skill that will pay dividends for your business and career. Give yourself and your team the milestone planning skills they need by investing in quality training, such as an online Diploma of Project Management (BSB50820).