Stop the Clock: Setting Timeline Milestones and Why It Matters

Posted on March 16, 2015 by Darla F

stop the clock

What are milestones but reminders that you are not quite there yet, right? Well, that is kind of the glass half empty definition. There is a glass half full side to milestones that will help you meet your goals. For agencies trying to perfect the project management timeline, milestones are an absolute necessity. Here’s why.

Milestones are Not the Playground Bully

First, let’s clear something up. A milestone is the not that kid in school that also made fun of you. Milestones are more like how you shake your finger at that kid and say, look what I did. They are benchmarks of achievement and inspiration to push forward.

Consider your project management timeline a road trip. As you travel, there mile markers on the side of the road that tell you how far you have come. That is the real purpose of a milestone. It pinpoints your progress to keep you moving in the right direction.

Keeping a Bigger than Life Project Manageable

Milestones play another key role in project management. They keep everyone working at a practical pace. Let’s look at a larger than life project kept in control with planned milestones. President John F. Kennedy was the manager of a little endeavor called “Race to the Moon.” Like any good project, this one utilized milestones to keep all the various players working productively towards one history making goal.

  • First pilot-controlled flight
  • First active communications satellite
  • Development of the first reusable spacecraft
  • First successful piloted orbit change

NASA’s milestones were mini projects that got them closer to that first small step for mankind

Piloting Your Own Project

Could Neil Armstrong have made it to the moon without effective project management? Of course not, and you should not expect to keep your project flowing well without proper organization either – in other words, a timeline with milestones. What should your milestones look like?

  • Be specific – You don’t want there to be any room for misinterpretation. Specificity provides clearly definable actions that put everyone on the same path.
  • Make them measurable – You want your milestones grounded, so you know you have really accomplished something. Just creating a marketing campaign for social media isn’t really a milestone, especially if you don’t know whether that approach is effective or not. Converting four leads via that campaign puts a number to it.
  • Make it Obtainable – Your chances of putting a man on the moon are questionable. If you make a milestone impossible to reach, then it really is the schoolyard bully taunting your team instead of encouraging them.
  • Be timely – It’s a project, not a sweatshop. Keep the timeline in prespective.
  • Be progressive – Timeline, by definition, means you should be moving forward in a logical manner.

You are the project manager, so be a good one. Use a timeline with effective milestones and improve your team’s chances of success.

Darla F is a full-time freelance writer who specializes in helping agencies meet their goals by developing creative and engaging content.


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