Flow From Milestones to Actions

For sometime we’ve been looking at the next level of planning detail in Milestone Planner: Actions. It’s very deliberately actions and not tasks or to do’s! All of us here have used various to do list tools over the years, and it almost always ends up the same way :- an unfeasibly long list of possibilities, probables, criticals, can do’s and reminders. After a few months you end up allocating an hour a day just to read through the list!

Do Things Differently

Milestone Planner is about working more effectively, and has a very different approach (and philosophy) to ‘1.0’ productivity software. Outcomes outperform activities. Purpose outperforms process. Deadlines outperform durations. Leadership and co-operation outperform command and control. Networked people outperform constraints and controls. So, what have we done? Here’s a quick video overview from Jim:

Actions over To Do’s

To Do’s are usually items without context, although good to do lists do have context, which helps to help prioritise and make sense of what’s in them. The real purpose of context is to ensure that our actions map to our goals (either personal or business). So, how are Actions in Milestone Planner different from what you might have seen with a To Do list before? Firstly, actions represent a commitment, either to yourself or someone else. Other things are fine, but they belong in a notepad or some form of idea store. Secondly, actions are created in a context –  they exist against a Milestone, inheriting it’s due date, and following it around.

Just like Milestones, Actions have an owner, but they also have a ‘supporter‘. The owner is the person who created the action. The supporter is the person it was assigned to, who is ‘supporting’ making it happen. The two may be one and the same of course. There’s nothing wrong with making and keeping commitments to yourself! Just like milestones, actions can be reassigned and edited in two clicks. If you are on a call or in a meeting, you can capture the meeting actions by clicking add action on a milestone, then simply type each action and kit enter – you don’t need to take your fingers off of the keyboard unless you want to assign them to someone else. It is super fast, enabling you to keep the flow of the meeting, and have a comprehensive action list at the end of it.

Actions have a status of  completed/done, started/in progress or not-started/backlog . This forms a basic personal kanban system, which you will see when you sign into the Milestone Planner dashboard. Kanban is something I’ve been big a fan of for a long time. If you want to know more about personal kanban, start with this presentation from Jim Benson (@ourfounder on Twitter), and check out the personal kanban site:

There have been hundreds of conversations that shaped the latest release of Milestone Planner. A huge thank you to everyone who’s taken time to speak with the SocialOptic team, dropped us emails, sent feedback or tweeted us. One conversation that stuck in my head is this one with Richard Maybury during a tvsmc meet up. I had my Zi-8 to had, so was able to catch it on camera:

Be productive, very productive! Keep the feedback coming, and thank you for inviting your friends and teams, and for keeping us healthy and growing! As we’ve been saying in the office all week: “ACTIONTASTIC!

4 Responses to “Flow From Milestones to Actions”

  1. October 08, 2010 at 3:47 pm, Jim Benson said:

    I am amazed by your completeness and brevity! There’s so much here.

    I very much like the owner / supporter distinction. Will there be an ability to assign a team? It would be interesting to track feature crew or pairing assignments against tasks over time.

    What you are doing is very exciting. Thank you!


  2. October 11, 2010 at 10:35 am, Benjamin said:

    Many thanks, Jim! We are thinking about both the idea of multiple supporters, and how we handle the idea of a “team”. At the moment each plan has a team, i.e. the group of people who have milestones that contribute to that plan, but we have some other ideas on that too. We’ll do some more thinking and tracking on that one.


  3. January 21, 2014 at 3:54 pm, You Survived That Goal You Changed | SocialOpticSocialOptic said:

    […] a process of identifying and completing specific actions (we very deliberately use the word ‘actions‘, rather than tasks here). Completing the actions moves you towards your goal. Similarly, […]


  4. August 06, 2014 at 8:44 pm, Fide said:

    Jason, I think the single vs. mutliple product owners question is one of hotly debated topics when dealing with scaling agile. It is always great when the organization can agree on a single product owner. However, the more departments, divisions, or geographic areas the impact of the project touches, the more difficult it becomes for one single person to effectively perform the role of product owner. It becomes more difficult for one person to build the commitment and ownership needed for the final solution to succeed across the enterprise. I liked the fact that even with a single product owner you use a product council. When done properly, the product council can be a great tool for promoting the needed commitment and ownership.Another approach that worked for me is to have a product ownership team (or product council) but have it be made up of members of the core project team. The key is to establish a framework for timely decision making and escalation by keeping all decisions within the core project team. In addition, a steering committee should be established to make final decisions but only when there is an impasse at the product ownership team. Each organization is different so some trials and errors are to be expected. With this setup, the project may get slowed down a little due to the added overhead. But, when there is conflict in interest and priorities, people that have real (not proxy) representation in project decision making will have more ownership of the final outcome of the project. In such environment, even when people don’t get their way, they are most likely to accept and own decisions if they feel they have a direct a role in how they have been made.Your thought leadership in this area, based on real and practical experience in the trenches, is a valuable asset to all project managers taking on the challenging of bringing agile to their enterprise. I look forward to your future insights.Thank you.


Leave a Reply