I’ve stressed numerous times how important having clear goals is, but it definitely bears further exploration. You may think that the end result is the only goal you need to have, but that is far from the truth. Intermittent goals, known as milestones, are highly important to the success of your project.
Imagine not having any milestones set up and not seeing anything from your provider until you receive the final product, only to discover that everything is wrong! Your timeline and budget would suffer greatly, but more importantly, your whole project could fall apart. Clear, intermittent goals are your best defense against a possible catastrophe.
Milestones are extremely valuable in keeping your project on track. These intermittent goals give your provider something immediate to strive for. You can make milestones even more motivating by attaching a payment to each one (just make sure the milestone has been fulfilled to your satisfaction before you pay).
Along with keeping your project moving forward at a steady pace, milestones give you regular checkpoints for reviewing the provider’s work. If your provider starts moving in the wrong direction, you’ll be able to get them back on course right away.
Whether you’re defining milestones or long-term goals, you need to be as specific as possible. This is where your careful planning will really pay off. Even if your provider understands what your end goal is, they might not be on the same page as you are regarding how to accomplish it. Spell out exactly what steps you want the project to take, what deliverables you want to check along the way, and in what order you want to check them. This structure and specificity will enable your provider to easily satisfy your wishes.
This goes hand in hand with being specific, because it means that you will also remain flexible. Remember that you hired your provider because you trust in
their knowledge and ability, so if they want to renegotiate your schedule and/or goals, hear them out. Your provider may have a very good and highly beneficial reason for wanting to structure the project differently. Also be realistic when creating your goals in the first place in terms of timing, budget and other feasibility issues. Don’t lay out a schedule that sets your provider up for failure. Give them and, ultimately, yourself the best possible chance at success.
One of your most important goals is to achieve a certain level of quality, which you must define up front. As with any goal, your provider cannot live up to this expectation unless they know what it is. Give your provider something to aspire to through a predetermined standard. A good provider will find this motivating.
Stay on top of these standards as the project progresses so that your provider knows that you’re serious and that the standards really do matter. If you don’t define your quality expectations up front, then it will hardly be fair to penalize your provider for not living up to them later on.
Service Level Agreement
To further stress the seriousness of your expectations, consider creating a Service Level Agreement, which is basically a quality contract. Your provider will have no doubts about the importance you place on quality and performance; however, be aware that some providers may not be comfortable
using an SLA, so be up front about your intention to use one. The best method is to include this information in your initial job description.
Lydia’s project is off to a great start. Armed with a detailed plan, she has hired a very promising provider and is ready to get things going. First, however, she puts together a list of goals that are based on her vision of how the project should progress and when each goal should be reached. She shares the list with her provider, and they discuss any adjustments that might need to be made. Her provider makes some very good suggestions, and they end up with a list of intermittent goals, or milestones, that they both agree are practical and achievable. Now her provider can get started with a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished and how.
Once you’ve chosen your provider, he or she will need to have a set of well-defined goals, preferably several scheduled throughout the project. Your provider cannot accomplish their task without knowing what it is. That’s obvious. What may not be obvious is how important intermittent goals can be toward the progression and successful completion of your project.
These goals allow you to keep tabs on both your provider’s progress and his or her interpretation of the desired end result. A provider can easily go off track, quite unintentionally, without proper guidance and course correction from you.