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Milestones Must Be Deliverables

Johanna Rothman recently wrote:
I taught a workshop about transitioning to Agile earlier this week. One of the things that's difficult for many project managers to recognize is that milestones must be deliverables--otherwise, it's too hard to know when something is done.

One of the participants had a slightly puzzled look on his face when I said that, so I'm not now thinking that another way to think about milestones is to call them handoffs. If everyone has the idea that their milestone is really a handoff to someone else in the project, you're more likely to get to "done" for a milestone.
Many early practitioners of agile methods are confused by the concept of an iteration, because it almost seems like an arbitrary increment in a project. At any point in a project, we can take a snapshot of everything and call it the end of an iteration. Johanna points out, succinctly, that iterations should be oriented around deliverables.

The most valuable deliverables will in general be those that exercise risks - usually requirements or architectural risks. If your team can deliver a fledgling version of the product to testers and prospective customers, you can determine how much progress the team is making in addressing these risks.

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