Project Management Central

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Topics: Risk Management, Schedule Management, Strategy
How should you proceed when projections show milestones at risk?
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Milestones (when used properly) create accountability, fuels motivation, and provides strategic knowledge to the project manager and the team as a whole. However, when projections show milestones at risk, you may get the opposite result wherein accountability turns to avoidance, and motivation turns to discouragement.

For the benefit of others, please provide your approach for managing this situation. It may also be helpful to describe that which does not work as well.
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Project managers are hired to anticipate instead to react. So, the project risk management process must be focused on that. With that said, I always follow the defined project risk management process.
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Whether it is an ominous deadline or a car accident, it is human nature to fixate on the problem rather than the way around it. Where the eyes point, the body follows and people will steer right into an obstacle whether that is in a car, or a major program milestone. If people are avoiding the milestone, they’re not taking the actions to avoid the failure and are driving right into the accident.

The trick is getting people to focus on the path around the obstacle rather than the obstacle itself. With a major milestone that is at risk, that means making sure the closure criteria are well defined and there is a plan to meet them. Usually it’s some but not all criteria that are at risk. (If it’s all, then the milestone was not properly planned.) The path to avoid a missed milestone is focusing on the specific criteria at risk.

Once people see they have a path to be successful, they can focus on that instead of the impending failure. Maybe they won’t completely meet all the criteria, but it might be possible to close the milestone at risk, or for the voting stakeholders to agree that the milestone can be closed as soon as specific actions are complete.
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1 reply by Eric Isom
Jun 20, 2019 8:24 PM
Eric Isom
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Agreed! As you said, you need to not only make people aware of the situation, you have to lead them out of it.
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I will definitely ACT ASAP and implement the risk response if it exists . Or I will ask for an urgent meeting to address this risk ,I try to avoid finger pointing and who is to blame because this will create stressful atmosphere where we should be looking for solutions.
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Milestones are a great way to report high-level project progress. Of course, the further out the milestone, the less accurate is the forecasted milestone date.
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Agree with Sergio and Stephane.
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If milestones are at risk - I hope I've being monitoring it in the RAID review. However if a symmetric shock - I would review the situation and establish what the options are. Ideally this has already been pre-empted in the Risk log an mitigations has been identified. If not convene a meeting with the relevant team members and review the options and agree approach and execute and monitor closely until back in kilter.
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First and foremost you need to understand your critical path. This should drive your focus and assessment of risks v issues. It’s all too easy to focus on the wrong risks and issues if you don’t understand how each one impacts the critical path. All good PMs should be reviewing these on a regular basis and the review time phase depends on the scores given to your risks and issues starting with highest scores which could result in a more than once a day review of progress and re evaluate the scoring. Milestones are markers of key points of your delivery and if not currently on critical path but has potential to be impacted then stakeholders should be informed straightaway giving them context of the risk level and potential impact if not mitigated as well as your mitigation and planning to return to green. It’s also important to have a view at what point in time if not fully mitigated a risk will become an issue. In all projects you will need to balance your costs and make a call how much to invest on mitigation which should be proportional to the potential impact should the risk become an issue. Remember it’s also ok to accept a risk and have no mitigation. In terms of team harmony never look to place blame but understand why and work together to provide solutions and where applicable feed into your continuous improvement to avoid future risks become issue. Above all remain focused keeping calm and communicate and make decisions on facts only.
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Jun 18, 2019 11:11 AM
Replying to Keith Novak
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Whether it is an ominous deadline or a car accident, it is human nature to fixate on the problem rather than the way around it. Where the eyes point, the body follows and people will steer right into an obstacle whether that is in a car, or a major program milestone. If people are avoiding the milestone, they’re not taking the actions to avoid the failure and are driving right into the accident.

The trick is getting people to focus on the path around the obstacle rather than the obstacle itself. With a major milestone that is at risk, that means making sure the closure criteria are well defined and there is a plan to meet them. Usually it’s some but not all criteria that are at risk. (If it’s all, then the milestone was not properly planned.) The path to avoid a missed milestone is focusing on the specific criteria at risk.

Once people see they have a path to be successful, they can focus on that instead of the impending failure. Maybe they won’t completely meet all the criteria, but it might be possible to close the milestone at risk, or for the voting stakeholders to agree that the milestone can be closed as soon as specific actions are complete.
Agreed! As you said, you need to not only make people aware of the situation, you have to lead them out of it.
Network:247



Milestones and checkpoints are part of the project management process were checkpoints allow a project manager to guage at an early stage whether a milestone is going to reached without the need for projections. Checkpoints make sure all adequate resources are in place to meet the milestone and if contingencies need to activated if not. Realistic planning before project commencement allows known delays to be built into schedule such as estimated delivery dates of parts to a Project site. Over correcting a situation should be avoid such as throwing resources as a project in the hope that everything will be ok. Reasons for issues must be ascertained before any further resources are allocated. Also working within the defined budget focuses Project Managers at the job at hand without relying on inbuilt contingencies.

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