In order to manage a project in the best possible way, the implementation phase of longer projects should be divided into shorter stages.
Milestones are breakpoints during the implementation phase. They provide an opportunity to look back and check the progress of the project, to discuss problems and to do the detailed planning for the subsequent phase (see 'Milestone meetings'). It is advisable to divide the implementation phase of a project into stages of 3-9 months.
At the time of the planning phase, some important intermediate objectives can be stated; put together chronologically, they should add up to the achievement of the objectives of the project as a whole. It is only during the detailed planning that the intermediate objectives of the first implementation stage will be specified with more precision.
Sometimes, such a subdivision is formally demanded by the client. It facilitates controlling but the divisions imposed by the client may not correspond to the ones that make best sense in terms of project management.
- You associate milestones primarily with the client's demands and feel that they only serve the client's purposes of control.
- Ongoing planning is an integral part of your project management and accordingly you check the progression of your project almost daily and adjust the strategies and measures as needed.
If you subdivide your project and set milestones in order to mark the different stages you will be in a position to manage the project systematically, to react adequately to a 'change in circumstances' and to correct eventual planning mistakes. You reduce the danger of accumulating a mountain of ‘things to do' and of finding yourself with a project that is becoming increasingly unmanageable. Unlike ongoing planning with its continuous querying, the periodic reflection provided by milestones allows you some breathing space to get on with the implementation of the measures.
For the implementation phase set milestones at regular intervals. State verifiable intermediate objectives for each milestone (see 'SMART project objectives').
- Is the project divided into several phases marked by milestones (and are meetings agreed in order to check the achievement of the objectives?)
- Have some important intermediate objectives been stated for each milestone?