Construction milestones are checkpoints on the timeline of your project – they can help you determine how your project is doing, how fair it is from being done, and if you need to make catch-up plans to ensure it can be delivered on time.
As a result, setting project milestones is essential to determine your project’s profitability and productivity. But what do project management milestones look like in real life?
In this article, let us discuss a milestone, how to find milestones in a project, and how you can use these to ensure your project’s success.
What is a Milestone in Construction Project Management?
A construction milestone is a specific point in the life cycle of a project that shows when a specific activity starts or ends. It lets you know if it is time for external reviews or input, time to check the budget, or when the activity is due for completion. Simply put, a milestone serves as a point of reference that marks a significant event or a place where a project can go in different directions.
Since a milestone focuses on significant steps in a project’s progress, it is easy to see how it can help with scheduling. Just like how tasks break up a big project into smaller, workable tasks, milestones divide a project into stages that help project managers take a pause and see any construction problems that may arise. After which, you can revise the plan and schedule and carry out the project to ensure it is delivered on time.
Why Are Construction Milestones Important?
One of the project manager’s most difficult tasks is ensuring everything runs smoothly. However, this is easier said than done. Creating, managing, and keeping track of a project schedule can take significant time and effort, taking your focus away from tasks that matter. This is why every project should have milestones, no matter how big or small.
Working on the project, no matter its size, scope, or complexity, is easier if you have a proper construction milestone schedule. Milestones allow you to divide big projects into smaller chunks of work and make a clear plan for how to finish each phase. Your team can focus on the tasks they need to do without worrying about future tasks in the subsequent project phases. This lets you track your project progress from one stage to the next.
How to Decide What to Identify as a Project Milestone
As discussed, project milestones show how far along the project is by dividing it into stages. A milestone is a mark that shows where one step ends and the next one begins. The exact point in your timeline at which you want to set your milestones might differ depending on your project, your organization, and other things.
So, the big question is: how do you know which ones to consider as a project milestone? Technically, you can set any milestones you want, as long as it marks a big task, an important event, a deliverable, or another important thing. Let us look at how you can identify and add project milestones to your schedule.
When you write a project milestone, you should consider how other things will affect each other. Dependencies are things or events that need to happen for your project to move forward.
One example is the dependencies from start to finish that link the end of two project phases. This means that one step of a project must be done while another is done, and you cannot do it simultaneously.
Another one is the dependencies from one project milestone to the next. For this, the two project milestones begin simultaneously – when you start one, you almost always start the other.
Projects usually go through detailed review and approval processes, and changes are often asked for. So, when you write a project milestone, it is best to include time for incorporating feedback from your coworkers, clients, and other stakeholders.
To make getting feedback as easy as possible, you should check in between project milestones to see if the project is on the right track or needs changes and revisions.
The construction industry is prone to delays, whether it is due to unpredictable events, delivery delays, or even something as simple as miscommunication. Because of this, it is best to be ready for a team member to fail. Anything can happen, like someone on the team getting sick, making a mistake, or turning in their part late.
It is best to plan for any problems that might come up with the team. For example, if you have some back-end team members who can help when you need them, you can make up for unexpected setbacks. You need an efficient construction time management system to ensure everything is going according to schedule.
How You Can Use Project Milestones Effectively
Part of the construction schedule is monitoring and tracking your project’s progress in real-time. By keeping track of the milestones, you have reached, you can figure out how far you are from the end of a project.
When you show stakeholders a milestone schedule, you can show them the milestones you reached this month and the ones you are on track to reach next month. You can also tell them if the milestones were reached on time or if there were any delays, such as construction inventory issues or inclement weather.
Planning milestones can help keep a project on track and keep workers motivated. Still, project managers must know how to use them to ensure they work. Here are some things you need to consider when planning your milestones.
Milestones can also serve as a motivational technique – but they may have the opposite outcome if overused. If you keep setting milestones for every little thing, your crew might feel like every task is equally important. Make sure only to use milestones for goals that can be thought of as critical path junctions and must-have deliverables.
Even though it is crucial to display milestones on a relatively rare basis, it is also essential to leave little time between them. Your staff will lose their motivation and momentum as a result of this. Make an effort to spread out your milestones effectively and efficiently.
Everyone – from your stakeholders, top management, project managers, and crew, should be on the same page when setting milestones. The project manager should ensure that everyone on the team knows about each milestone by giving out the necessary charts or schedules and keeping them in a prominent place at work. Get valuable insights from everyone on your team, and check if you set realistic milestones and schedules. Construction software can help you cascade real-time information to your teammates more quickly and efficiently.
Every team member needs to know how important it is to meet milestones on time. If they cannot do so, this is a critical issue that needs to be addressed immediately. If your team cannot reach a milestone by the due date, they should discuss what went wrong and what can be done to make them more productive. Setting milestones helps increase each team member’s accountability – this way, they can determine which tasks are critical for the project’s completion.
It is okay if only some milestones are reached successfully – every project is flawed. That is why you need to take a step back, pause, and review what happened so you can set realistic goals for the project’s next phase. In fact, it may be a good idea for the project manager to set goals that might be harder to reach and could cause the project to fail. This can teach workers something and give them something to work toward in the future.
Milestones make it much easier to plan out the steps of a project. This will ensure that everyone knows when the deadlines are for different aspects of the project. The goals cannot be reached for some reason. In that case, the project can be put back on track, and future milestones can be kept on track by taking the proper steps. More importantly, you can easily pick up the pace to reach project milestones if you need to get back on track.
On-the-Spot Project Evaluation
Every step of the project can be looked at and judged. Most project managers wait until the end to evaluate the project – that is why they need to set milestones. Milestones let you know what parts of the project went well and what parts could use some work. It allows you to monitor progress in real-time, ensuring that each project is finished within time and budget constraints.
Celebrate small wins as you reach each milestone to keep your spirits up. This will show your team members that you appreciate their hard work and encourage them to work harder to reach the project’s goals.