Imagine a road system without signs. No exit numbers, no identifying the cities or towns on your way, not even a rest stop sign.
How much more time do you think your morning commute would take if the signs weren’t there?
We take the signs for granted, almost. Especially when driving with a GPS.
That is an important piece of information, really. If you’re trying to get to Green Bay, and you don’t want to end up in Brookfield, the sign is what tells you where to go.
Highway signs are the modern version of Roman road markers, called milestones. The Roman road system was vast, and comprehensive. In fact, many a modern road is an old Roman one, updated and repaved. In those times, people traveled by foot and rarely traveled more than a few miles a day. It was important for travelers to know where they were going. The Romans placed markers on the side of the road to tell travelers what road they were on, where they were going, and when possible, how far it was to their destination.
When it comes to project management, there are also milestones. Your project has a destination, and your team is along the journey. How do you tell if you’re on the right track, and if you’ll reach delivery on time? With milestones.
Milestones are a key part of any project plan. They’re the highway signs of a project. Milestones are what tell you “OK, you’ve come this far, and there’s this far left to go. Now it’s time to move in this direction, and concentrate on this thing.”
We all know what happens when a highway sign is in the wrong place. People wind up miles away from their destination, lost, and confused. We also know what happens when highway signs are designed inefficiently – people spend longer on the road, take routes that are torturous, and sometimes go in circles until they find the road they need. Choosing the right milestones, and placing them in the right place, are important!
When it comes to project management, your milestones are markers for your team. Someone working on tasks doesn’t always see the big picture. When do things change focus? How do I know its time to shift from one set of tasks to another? How do I know the project I am working on is making progress at all? Milestones in the project plan are what answer these questions for your team.
Here we see the Royal Wedding plans in Proggio’s project management platform. The red milestone is the “rehearsal” milestone. You can see that the links of dependencies are all meeting at the rehearsal – this is the moment where everyone knows if their work has worked. This is the “exit here” sign for the team. Whether they were working on traffic arrangements, the dress, the menu, or the flower design, here is where it all comes together, and the focus changes to the next stage: the actual wedding itself. And as they’re working on those tasks, some weeks before, that’s the exit sign on the highway they’re looking out for, and planning around.
Use milestones accurately and wisely! They’re the highway signs for your team as it navigates the journey from plan to delivery.