Schrödinger’s Milestone

Matrix dodge

Show me your milestone, and I’ll tell your fortune.


Schrödinger’s Milestone is a condition of a milestone’s definition, making it impossible to tell if it’s achieved or not. In other words, at the same time, the milestone is both met and not met, depending on the observer.

This condition is typically asymptomatic until the project is nearing its first important milestone. At this point, PM and the team start reading it again in the light of their current knowledge. Their heart rates increases. Sweating is common. Headache is likely. Reddened eyes aren’t unheard of.

Where am I?


Numerous treatment techniques have been proven ineffective. For instance, wearing a surgical mask during schedule development does very little to improve your milestones. It is however helpful when a PM runs out of tic-tacs.

The best results so far have been demonstrated by performing a radical rescheduloctomy. That’s an operation on the schedule, involving removal and reconstruction of all malfunctioning milestones.

This procedure can be loosely compared with a sex change operation. In both cases the operation itself, while intrinsically complicated, is still relatively easy compared with the complexities of having the world accept the fact that it had happened at all, and all the implications that it brings. Another analogy is that in most cases this can be done only once.


Project plan with poorly defined milestones indicates lack of schedule control. The value of having good milestones is the ability to objectively measure the progress of the project. If the milestone is declared done, but at the cost of increased technical debt, then the project is de facto behind schedule.

We may have two parallel universes. One is a fairy tale for the senior management, in which everything is done on time, on budget and with fantastic quality, and in that world, our milestone is very much met. The other world, however, is the sweet secret of the PM and the team. In this universe, the amount of technical debt is growing rapidly. All the bugs, enablers, refactorings, that ought to be made for this milestone, but weren’t, make it not really achieved. Those things were sacrificed on the altar of being on time.

The distance between those two parallel universes is the measure of the project’s health. Technical debt will have to be paid at some point, with interests. Two worlds will converge eventually. Schrödinger’s box will be open.

Then, we’ll find out, if the PM will turn out dead or alive.

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