Use MILESTONES to Monitor Project Performance



By Dr. Kenneth Smith, PMP

Honolulu, Hawaii

& Manila, The Philippines

At a recent PMI Philippines Chapter face-to-face ‘Happy Hour’ I sat between two young participants – they are all young nowadays! – discussing the ever-increasing intricacies in software to manipulate micro data. I interjected, lamenting the loss of an erstwhile app that produced time-scaled Critical Path charts; noting flaws embedded in extant scheduling software, as well as their consequent misuse in monitoring project performance.  That experience inspired me to write this article to also enlighten the contemporary world-wide community of Project Practitioners.

Evolving from a combination of Gantt Bar charts representing tasks, and Milestone charts representing checkpoints, during the late 1950’s the Critical Path Method (CPM) merged both concepts into an interlocking Network sequence of ‘Activities’ and ‘Events’ – i.e. ‘Milestones.’

Figure 1: Gantt Chart

Comprised of arrows and milestone nodes, initially these Critical Path networks took one of two forms — either Precedence, or Time-scaled:

Figure 3: Activity on Arrow (Precedence) Network

Figure 4: Activity on Arrow (AOA) Precedence and Time Scaled Networks

NOTE: Initial network sequencing was by the AOA Precedence format – then time estimates were developed afterwards. Subsequent time-scaling combined the best features of Gantt charting, facilitating visible displays highlighting the eponymous ‘Critical Path’ for baseline scheduling, as well as for detecting variances during performance monitoring, and facilitating adjustments.


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How to cite this article: Smith, K. F. (2023).  Take the Guess out of Guess-timating: Use Milestones to Monitor Project Performance, advisory article, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue VII, July. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/pmwj131-Jul2023-Smith-take-the-guess-out-of-guess-timating.pdf

About the Author

Dr. Kenneth Smith

Honolulu, Hawaii
& Manila, The Philippines


Initially a US Civil Service Management Intern, then a management analyst & systems specialist with the US Defense Department, Ken subsequently had a career as a senior foreign service officer — management & evaluation specialist, project manager, and in-house facilitator/trainer — with the US Agency for International Development (USAID).  Ken assisted host country governments in many countries to plan, monitor and evaluate projects in various technical sectors; working ‘hands-on’ with their officers as well as other USAID personnel, contractors and NGOs.  Intermittently, he was also a team leader &/or team member to conduct project, program & and country-level portfolio analyses and evaluations.

Concurrently, Ken had an active dual career as Air Force ready-reservist in Asia (Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines) as well as the Washington D.C. area; was Chairman of a Congressional Services Academy Advisory Board (SAAB); and had additional duties as an Air Force Academy Liaison Officer.  He retired as a ‘bird’ colonel.

After retirement from USAID, Ken was a project management consultant for ADB, the World Bank, UNDP and USAID.

He earned his DPA (Doctor of Public Administration) from the George Mason University (GMU) in Virginia, his MS from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT Systems Analysis Fellow, Center for Advanced Engineering Study), and BA & MA degrees in Government & International Relations from the University of Connecticut (UCONN).  A long-time member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and IPMA-USA, Ken is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) and a member of the PMI®-Honolulu and Philippines Chapters.

Ken’s book — Project Management PRAXIS (available from Amazon) — includes many innovative project management tools & techniques; and describes a “Toolkit” of related templates available directly from him at kenfsmith@aol.com on proof of purchase of PRAXIS.

To view other works by Ken Smith, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-kenneth-smith/