Session 12: Revisiting Milestones, Phases, Steps, and Tasks

Session 11: Carving Out The Exploration Phase
Session 13: Incorporating Milestones

Hey-o! Welcome to this session of the “How to Make Guides” project where I am creating a guide to help users make their own instruction manuals. In the previous session, I took the first two guide phases and split them into three. In this session I plan on incorporating “milestones” into the project planning document and instructions. This may also involve the creation of a template so users can create their own project plans. Not sure yet. We’ll see what the journaling leads to…

So without further ado, let’s get started!

Going The Extra Milestone

Looking back at the session that introduced milestones, I had mentioned how the current task list doesn’t list tasks but milestones and how there was a place for both.

What I need to figure out is the relationships between the following terms:

  • Phase
  • Step
  • Milestone
  • Task

Looking at the grossly outdated PM Glossary I created, a phase is “a segment of time defined by the type of work performed toward and outcome”. The other terms are not in the glossary. Maybe if I reduce the terms to the most basic terms, a pattern or system will be revealed?

  • A phase is an abstract amount of time.
  • A step (guide procedure) is an instruction.
  • A milestone is a point in time made significant by the accomplishment of a notable goal.
  • A task is goal and the work required to meet that goal, typically achievable within a handful of steps (sequential actions).

It’s a little clunky but it comes down to :

  • Phase: Span of time
  • Step: Instruction
  • Milestone: Point in time
  • Task: Work

Okay this is actually helpful, I think. Phases and milestones are time based and steps and tasks are work based. Within phases are milestones. Milestones signify a particular step that has been completed. Tasks are work completed within steps. I think that makes sense.

  • Phase [time frame]
    • Step [instruction toward completing tasks within time frame]
      • Task [the work to complete the step]
    • Milestone [point in time signified by the completion of an important step]

Okay. That’s all well and good but I see a different problem that should be addressed before moving on. There are currently seven phases but some phases, particularly the refinement phase, has a lot of – subphases? I don’t know what to call them but basically they are currently treated as phases even though they are supposed to be steps.

Here’s the desired outline:

  1. Exploring Your Vision
  2. Planning Your Project
  3. Planning Your Product
  4. Producing Your Product
  5. Refining Your Product
  6. Launching Your Product
  7. Closing Your Product

But looking at something like the “Refining Your Product” phase, there are several multi-step steps:

  • Peer Reviewing Your Product
    • Research your target audience and how to reach them.
    • Prepare the drafted work for external review.
    • Send the drafted work for confidant review.
    • Edit the work then send out for second-draft review.
  • Prototype Testing
    • Analyze your prototype
    • Build your prototype
    • Perform prototype testing

Okay. I guess that’s it. However, that still seems like those are two different phases. Maybe it simply comes down to Reviewing Your Product Content and Testing Your Product? Seems like it to me. I’ll add that to the Action Items.

Okay, going back to the milestones. The other factor to consider here is that these four elements (phase, milestone, step, task) might have different relevance based on whether it’s in regards to the task list or the guide.

The goal of the task list is to provide an adaptive pathway for known and unknown tasks while the guide is to provide a predetermined pathway of steps. That’s it, I think. Here’s the distinction in table form:

ToolPurposePathway for…Traits
Task ListUser actively plans their pathKnown and unknown tasksFlexible, Manual
GuideUser passively follows a pathSuggested tasksRigid, Prewritten

The two tools work well together as the guide is a way to jumpstart the project and the task list provides the missing adaptability.

So what does each element mean to the tool?

ElementIn a guide…In a task list…
PhaseCategory of workCategory of work
MilestoneObjective for a phaseObjective to work toward
StepInstructionPrewritten mini-goal
TaskNoneUser generated mini-goal

Okay, I think this will break down like this:

GuideTask List
– Overview (Milestones)
– Steps
– Milestones
– – Steps | Tasks
– – – Tasks

So phases are about the same in each.

Milestones will be mentioned in the overview language of phases in the guide (“By the time you are done with this phase you will have -“) but will be explicitly listed as the first layer of a phase in the task list.

Steps will be set up as instructions in the guide and will be translated into tasks in the task list.

Tasks will not be explicitly communicated in the guide but will be added by users in the task list.

Okay. That seems to work. I’ve added this all to the Action Items below. Next I’ll transfer these to the Issue Log and then slate them where they seem appropriate. I believe covers things here.

In the next session I will most likely be tackling the action items below. We’ll see what happens when I get there.

Action Items

  • Change “Refining Your Product” to “Reviewing Your Product Content” and “Testing Your Product”
  • Add Milestones
    • Update phase overviews in the guide to include milestones
    • Update the task list to include milestones
  • Add steps to task list.
  • Rewrite “Phase 2 > Step 3” regarding the project task list
  • Create Appendix Item: Task List template
Session 11: Carving Out The Exploration Phase
Session 13: Incorporating Milestones