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What Is a Project Milestone?
By Jennifer Kentmere

A milestone is an event during the life of a project that signifies a new stage. Often a milestone is reached when a key task or deliverable has been achieved.

Milestones are set along the critical path of your project plan.

Why Might I Want To Set Them?

  • Scheduling

    Setting milestones can help keep your project on schedule. When you reach a milestone it is a chance to re-visit your project plan and identify any problems in your project schedule.

  • Celebrating success

    Like any milestones in life, completing a stage of your project is a cause for celebration. Especially if you are working on a long-term project, reaching a milestone can be a chance for you to congratulate yourself on a job well done.

  • Project evaluation

    Re-visiting your project plan from time to time is essential and reaching a milestone is a good time to step back from the project and take a critical look.

    • What is going well?
    • What problems are you encountering?
    • Are your tasks realistic?
    • How about your time estimations?

    Re-evaluating your project when you reach milestones is a good way to keep it on track and to identify potential problems before they become serious.

What Are the Downsides of Setting Milestones?

  • Over-complication of smaller projects

    Not all projects need milestones. Smaller projects can become unnecessarily complicated if you break them down into too many tasks and milestones. You don’t want your project planning to take over from doing the actual work!

  • Non-critical task slippage

    There is a danger in concentrating too much on the milestones along your critical path: you might miss the non-critical tasks that can slip as a result. Ihf you do set milestones be sure to use them as an opportunity to review the whole project, not just the tasks along the critical path.

To Recap…

As with everything related to project management, only set milestones if you think they are useful and relevant to your projects. Don’t over-complicate your project plan unnecessarily… but remember to celebrate your successes as you achieve them!

Jennifer Kentmere is a freelance writer and entrepreneur. She trained in public sector project management in the UK and left in 2008 to go it alone as a freelance project manager working with small-to-medium sized businesses. She now lives in the US and is passionate about using her experience to help other freelancers.

You can read more from Jennifer on her blog, which is aimed at freelancers who haven’t had project management training but who would like advice on organizing their work.

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