Milestones are measuring points that are used in reviewing the progress of a project. Milestones can be set in different ways, to reflect different purposes. For example, milestones are often used to provide an agenda for regular meetings which review the project. These reviews should take place, weekly, monthly or quarterly, depending on the nature of the project.
Another approach is to set the milestones to reflect key phases of the project. Sometimes such milestones are established in this way to enable reviews to consider whether the project should be continued or should stop at this stage. Some organisations take a more challenging approach and inquire at each review whether the project should be terminated, expecting an adequate defence to be made in terms of the continuing value of the project to the organisation. In Example 2 – Turning back at ‘tollgates’, this review stage was called a ‘tollgate review’.
Example 2: Turning back at ‘tollgates’
I was on a team developing a project for an international information technology organisation when the project was discontinued at a ‘tollgate’ review. The project was to develop and pilot a way of consulting about a new information system prior to developing the specification. The project had progressed through several previous reviews and had received approval and support, so we were not particularly worried about the response we were likely to receive at this next review. We prepared a briefing explaining how the event would be designed and we had provisional arrangements made to run pilot programmes in Sweden, Argentina and Greece. We expected the green light to confirm the arrangements and start within a month or two. However, we were all shocked to learn that the project had been discontinued at the tollgate review. Apparently, the strategy had been changed and the new system had to be introduced quickly and without consultation. The project staff were paid off and the project closed immediately.