Formats for a milestone table including the completion dates and the status of major driving tasks for each milestone. The second format also includes a column indicating the completion criteria and success factors for the milestone.
What this is
This template provides two alternate formats for a milestone table that helps teams get and convey the most accurate reading of the progress on their critical milestones, by keeping visible the key activities that must be completed for the milestone to be achieved. Format 1 is great for use in team meetings to quickly highlight and review status of critical upcoming activities. Format 2 includes a column for completion criteria and success factors, for teams who would like to use it as a primary vehicle for communication about project tasks.
Why it's useful
Milestone tables are an excellent way to communicate high-level project goals and overall project progress (or issues, if milestone dates are not being met). To get the most accurate reading of the progress toward each milestone, though, the team must understand what key activities must be completed for the milestone to be achieved. This table provides a format for keeping those driving tasks highly visible and related to the milestones.
The purpose of the completion criteria and success factors in the second format is to make sure everyone on the team understands what it takes for a driving task to be completed and successful, and for the overall milestone to be successful.
A side benefit of this type of table is that it is very useful for teams who want to use streamlined, "low deliverable count" project planning and tracking. This might include smaller teams, or those working in a highly iterative and/or in informal environments, where a detailed, integrated schedule is not necessarily used each week. These milestone table formats can be a primary vehicle for communication about project tasks. The second format is recommended for those situations, since it provides a place for the team to be very specific about completion and success.
How to use it
This table is created during the planning of the project, and used and updated throughout the project for tracking and communication.
Identify key high-level milestones: As you plan the project, identify key milestones the team should track.
Identify driving Tasks: For each milestone that will be tracked, identify the key driving tasks/groups of tasks that must be done for the milestone to be achieved. Add those to the table, along with a designated lead or owner.
Define completion criteria and success factors: If you have chosen the second Milestone Table format in this file, fill in the column for completion criteria and success factors. See the example table for example entries.
Save the "baseline" or original dates: Record the baseline scheduled date for each milestone. This will come from your detailed planning and scheduling activities.
Update the table prior to each team meeting: Get status information on each driving task from each lead/owner ahead of a team meeting.
Look for problems: Determine from that status whether a milestone appears to be in jeopardy. Include a revised date in the "current projected date" column if necessary.
Use the table in each team meeting, to quickly review status against milestones. Bring an updated table to the team meeting. Go down the milestone list, at least for those coming in the near term or those farther out for which driving tasks have already started. Have each person listed as responsible for a driving task quickly explain the status of that task, and whether they believe the milestone is on target or threatened. Discuss any changes the project manager has made to the projected completion date for that milestone, and why.
Clarify completion and success criteria: As you review milestones and their driving tasks, make sure that everyone is speaking from the same definition of what it means for that task or milestone to be complete, and successful.
Determine actions the team needs to take, if any, to get the milestone back on track.
Determine whether the schedule baseline should change. At some point, the team may decide that the schedule has to be re-baselined—in effect the project is being "rescheduled."
This should generally only be done if major issues have been encountered and significant re-planning has to occur.
In this case the "baseline" column would be updated to a new baseline level, and the new baseline dates recorded.
A baseline change should not be done too easily - that would undermine the value of identifying and tracking critical milestones.
If a re-baseline does become necessary, record the reason for the baseline change in a "Baseline History" section after the table itself.
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