The power of milestones’ management

A month ago I completed the Coast-to-Coast cycle route from Workington to Tynemouth. Along with a couple of friends, I covered the 150 miles through the Lake District and across the Pennines in three days.

This was a new and exhilarating experience and one lesson in particular has stuck with – the power and motivation of milestones.

The weather, particularly on the first day, was terrible – wet, windy (I was blown off my bike twice) and cold. On a glorious summer’s day it’s easy to coast along, enjoy the view and be in the moment. When it’s lashing down with rain the thought that you are making progress is essential for your psychological wellbeing.

Similarly, the conditions for business are currently stormy. You may not therefore be travelling as quickly or as easily as you would like, but using milestones to remind you and your organisation that you are still moving forward will sustain and improve your collective momentum and commitment.

As management writer Tom Peters has recently commented, “Milestones are all-important, no matter how trivial or repetitive the task. The art of ‘milestoning’ is of the upmost importance if, like me, you believe in the relentless pursuit of excellence in execution.”

Here are seven lessons from our bike ride that I believe also apply to how you lead your business in today’s torrential conditions:

  1. Have a crystal-clear, ultimate goal. AWe benefited significantly from knowing our overall objective (reach Tynemouth). Without such a specific goal we would have given up a lot earlier, and, most probably, have not set off in the first place. Do you have clarity on your objectives, and are these shared across your organisation?
  2. Milestones must be celebrated (but not always publicly). I made sure that I celebrated all the milestones in some way. Some were purely private (such as opening my next chocolate bar), or a small group reward (stopping for a cup of tea), while others were big enough to share more widely (calling my wife after completing the first day’s route, and texting everyone when we finally reached Tynemouth).
  3. Beginning the endeavour is a milestone in itself. Goethe, Germany’s giant of literature, once wrote, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” Such magic should be celebrated in some way and we made sure we took group photos at the start as well as at the end of our journey.
  4. Don’t have too many milestones too early. I soon learnt that in the first couple of hours of the day it is important not to think too much about milestones. Far from being motivational, they simply reminded me of how much more there was to do. This was the time to simply get my head down and get on with it.
  5. Group dynamics are strengthened through achievement.Sharing our feelings of success, however insignificant to those outside our small group, helped give us the belief to tackle our future challenges with greater confidence.
  6. Looking back can be as important as looking ahead. After completing a quarter or a third of our ride, when were still a long way from our ultimate destination, it was motivating to see how far we had travelled. We still had a long way to go, but knowing that we were well on our way built self-belief and momentum.
  7. Learn to love the climbs. There are always gaps between milestones and some of them can be tough and unforgiving. By the end of the second day I had discovered that if I took my mind off the next milestone and focused on maintaining my rhythm and pace I began to enjoy the climbs much more, and at times they gave me some of my most exhilarating moments (“Yes, I can do this!”)

The bottom line

Where can you use the power of milestones’ management in your organisation to develop momentum and commitment in 2009?


To find out more contact Stuart by clicking here or call +44-(0)1636-526111.