Visual Milestone Planning in a hybrid development context



By Dr. Eduardo Miranda

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA


This paper explains the Visual Milestone Planning (VMP) method using an agile vocabulary to facilitate its adoption by agile practitioners as a front end for a hybrid development process. VMP is a visual and collaborative planning approach which promotes a shared understanding of the work approach and commitment through the direct manipulation by team members of the reified planning constructs involved in the development of the plan. Once the product backlog has been established and relevant milestones identified, a novel construct called the milestone planning matrix is used to document the allocation of product backlog items to milestones. The milestones due dates are later determined by grouping sticky notes representing the work to be performed into timeboxes called work packages and accommodating them on a resource and time scaled scheduling canvas very much as it would be done in a Tetris game.

Keywords: Milestone planning, Hybrid development, Agile project management.

1.0 Introduction

Prominent agile authors have long advocated the need for a project to have an artifact to guide the work of a team through it. Cohn [1], for example, suggests the use of a release plan, without which “teams move endlessly from one iteration to the next”; Cockburn [2], adds “a coarse-grained project plan, possibly created from a project map or a set of stories and releases to make sure the project is delivering suitable business value for suitable expense in a suitable time period”; Highsmith [3], postulates a Speculate Phase, in which “a capability and/or feature-based release plan to deliver on the vision is developed as well as a wave (or milestone) plan spanning several iterations used as major synchronization and integration points”; and Brechner [4] writes “it’s important to have a vision and a plan for achieving your project goals. Even crowdsourcing projects need an organizing principle and structure to allow everyone to contribute toward the shared outcome”.

Although these authors discuss the characteristics these plans must show, e.g. that the plan must be formulated, not in terms of the tasks to be performed but rather in terms of the outcomes the project must deliver and how they must be elaborated, e.g. collectively by the team and not by a solitary project manager who later hands it down to it for execution, they do not provide a method for doing it.

This approach to planning was first proposed by Andersen [5] who called it Milestone Planning. In his seminal article, Andersen defines a milestone “as result to be achieved … a description of a condition or a state that the project should reach by a certain point in time. A milestone describes what is to be fulfilled, but not the method to fulfil it”. In a subsequent work [6], he describes milestone planning as an activity to be performed by the group stating “We strongly emphasize the motivational and inspirational aspects of planning. They are often neglected in practice so that planning becomes a tedious chore carried out on the project manager’s desk or PC. This results in a lack of ownership of the plan by the parties involved in the project and consequently the plan is never actively used. This is one reason for the failure of so many projects”, but also like in the case of the agile authors, he failed to provide a method to construct such plans. The gap was addressed by Miranda [7] who proposed a participatory and visual approach to construct milestone plans he called the Visual Milestone Planning (VMP).

By their own nature, good milestone plans are robust, comprehensive, easy to understand, and confer great flexibility in terms of how to achieve the milestones, all of which makes them a good fit to organize agile endeavors.

This paper casts the VMP approach in the context of planning a project which will be executed using an agile approach like Scrum. Creating what is commonly defined as a hybrid approach [8]. The execution aspects of the project are only cursory covered due to page count limits and the interested reader is directed to [9] and [10] for an in-depth treatment.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper is based on a preprint version and has not undergone peer review or any post-submission improvements or corrections. The Version of Record of this contribution is published in Quality of Information and Communications Technology (QUATIC2023) published by Springer, and is available online at https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-43703-8_5  

How to cite this paper: Miranda, E. (2024). Visual Milestone Planning in a hybrid development context; second edition, PM World Journal, Vol. XIII, Issue VI, Junn. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/06/pmwj142-Jun2024-Miranda-Visual-Milestone-Planning-in-hybrid-development-context.pdf

About the Author

Dr. Eduardo Miranda

Pennsylvania, USA


Dr. Eduardo Miranda is Associate Teaching Professor at Carnegie Mellon University where he teaches courses in project management and agile software development at the Master of Software Engineering Program and at the Tepper School of Business. Dr. Miranda’s areas of interest include project management, quality and process improvement.

Before joining Carnegie Mellon, Dr. Miranda worked for Ericsson where he was instrumental in implementing Project Management Offices (PMO) and improving project management and estimation practices. His work is reflected in the book “Running the Successful Hi-Tech Project Office” published by Artech House in March 2003.

Dr. Miranda holds a PhD. in Software Engineering from the École de Technologie Supérieure, Montreal and Masters degrees in Project Management and Engineering from the University of Linköping, Sweden, and Ottawa, Canada respectively and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has published over fifteen papers in software development methodologies, estimation and project management.

Dr. Miranda is a certified Project Management Professional and a Senior Member of the IEEE. He can be contacted at mirandae @ andrew.cmu.edu.

For more, visit the author’s website at http://mse.isri.cmu.edu/facstaff/faculty1/core-faculty/miranda-eduardo.html