Too many people consider milestones and goals to be synonymous. However, they’re quite different. Goals provide vision, while milestones are the checkpoints along the way that help you track your progress. When a goal seems distant and unattainable, each milestone — however small — can boost your spirits and show that you’re moving in the right direction.
The mission of any good consultant is to help businesses not only establish those milestones, but also achieve them. When working with consultants, creating successful and measurable milestones depends on these steps:
1. Start with Scope
Don’t assume a consultant can read your mind. You know exactly what you want to get out of the project, but making it clear upfront — verbally and in writing — will save both you and your consultant time and energy down the road (not to mention money). Create a document outlining objectives and what you expect to have as the project progresses.
Try having your consultant create a self-assessment questionnaire. Consultants bring a wealth of market experience to help set realistic expectations for your business. Creating this document tends to bring more clarity and focus to the project.
2. Establish Corrective Measures
Nothing hurts a business more than a major mishap, but it’s always surprising when companies don’t address and clearly communicate a plan to correct it. If you’re mentally, physically, and financially prepared for a longer journey to success — mistakes included — you can quickly course-correct as necessary.
3. Get off the Sidelines
A hands-off approach to your consultant relationship accomplishes nothing. Expect to spend time assisting with logistics and internal communications to stakeholders. You know your organization best, and consultants will look to you to make certain decisions and provide approval. They may not be familiar with your company’s specific processes or structures, just as you’re unfamiliar with how they accomplish their tasks. If you’re not available and supportive, you may become a stopgap.
4. Celebrate a Job Well Done
Meaningful rewards, even just in verbal form, go a long way — as does a requisite rest period between milestones. Consultants need to feel like they’re accomplishing something every step of the way and see how it connects to the broader plan; otherwise, they’ll get burned out.
I recently worked with a consultant whom I’ll call “Jennifer.” Her client had recent leadership changes and was facing an adverse, fearful staff. Jennifer did an incredible job leveraging milestones in what could have been a long, painful transformation. She met with all the stakeholders and created milestones that everyone agreed upon. She celebrated each and every one, reminding the client how much they could achieve together.
Your milestones help create a routine that will be the driving force behind your company’s success. Each milestone should help motivate the team and forecast the completion of the next milestone. Good project management is not about managing the end (when it’s too late); rather, it’s about measuring against those benchmarks along the way.
About the Author: Sona Jepsen is the vice president of consultant relations at Fidelity National Information Services. Her department drives solutions for sales teams in consultant-led opportunities.