Have you ever notices that little black color diamond on the Gantt Chart of your project plan? This is a task in the task list with zero work and zero duration. Still wondering what I am talking about? Hey! I am talking about Milestone, or Project Milestone to be more precise.
If you happen to use MS Project (or any other project management software for that matter), you know what I am talking about. A milestone is a task with zero work. Just like a road milestone, this represents that you have reached a certain point in your project.
Many time project managers tend to ignore this tiny diamond. They put it in the task list for shake of showing something completed. However, this little thing is more useful – you can use it to motivate your team!
Use milestone to show major deliverable
You can use a milestone to show when a major project deliverable can be produced (delivered). In your weekly status reports, you can show how far you are from reaching this milestone. This is very helpful in big projects, where the progress towards the 100% completion of project is slow. Your initial weekly reports shows one digit percentage; which may not impress stakeholders. However, if you have defined milestones carefully, you can show the percentage complete with respect to the next milestone. This will be an impressive figure. You should than show the overall percentage completion of the project.
Forecast the completion of next milestone
In my earlier blog post on how to report project status, I advocated that you must forecast the completion of project. However, if you are using milestones, it’s better (and easier) to forecast the next milestone rather the the whole project. The reason is simple, with your experience and available data, you can peek into the near future but not far away. If your milestone is planned to be completed within a month (or week), you can judge the situation better than one year (project completion).
Use milestone to motivate your team
I have seen many project managers emphasizing on the task completion rather than achieving something. Hey Jack! Complete this task by EOD today is their usual way of talking to their team members. The problem here is that the task has no meaning to the Jack. He won’t feel anything after completing the task except it was a damn long day. Use milestone instead of task. Think – Hey Jack! you know what, our team is achieving this milestone this week. And your contribution is very important in this achievement. If you can complete this task today, we will be on easy track and we can share this with our stakeholders. Now, Jack has a motive to work. He has something to achieve rather than just finishing the task. You can expect more than 100% from Jack.
Finally, to summarize the long story into one line – Take the full advantage of tiny diamond by knowing it’s power.