Lessons Learned About Milestone Documentation

Forecast of ExecutionThe current posting contains lessons learned about milestone documentation coming from my experience of working on large programs. I keep a list of internal milestones leading to the release of a deliverable, reported on a weekly basis, not necessarily baselined with the program (only the final delivery baselined), but valued by the customer in the reporting provided. I report on the execution via a weekly leadership report and the duration of any of these deliverables is a year or more. The programs I work have an unpredictable dynamic, marked by hardware test failures, the customer holding the execution by lengthy reviews or changing requirements, government holding execution during their reviews, delays at suppliers, rare resources unavailable, and others like this. Many times happened the customer started nitpicking a report and started asking how did we get where we are, with months between milestones and nothing to show between. A schedule well maintained may give the storyline, but searching is time-consuming.

I found, along the time, something better to document every task and especially the intermediary milestones. I work on a large program and all the tasks are run on lower-level schedules. Many of my tasks are quite long, more than a few days. What I found working very well to document these tasks is populating the notes field of the task in Microsoft Project, based on the pattern, with the most recent information always on top:

Date X: Describe the current status of the task. Show the actions assigned this date and who has them. Action Z assigned before is complete.

When talking about actions, these usually task actions, not something that would go on a RAIL (e.g. call supplier to ask something or schedule a meeting). The status, without actions, goes in the milestone note as well. This way, the whole history of the project is documented and the data can be mined for lessons learned periodically. Having a transparent history of actions and decisions went a long way to justify the status of the program to customer and leadership, and avoiding tough questions at a later time and conflicts with the customer related to performance.

#lessonslearned #projectmanagement #projectmilestones

Dr. George Gafencu, DBA, PMP, DTM

References for Lessons Learned About Milestone Documentation

Project Management Institute, A guide to the project management body of knowledge (sixth edition). Newton Square, PA: Project Management Institute, 2017, retrieved from https://www.pmi.org.


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