• The Experts

Autopsies and Improving the Dreaded Milestone Review


An autopsy is the examination of a body after life is over. The aim of a post-mortem is to determine the cause of death. It starts with a large, deep, Y-shaped incision that is made from shoulder to shoulder meeting at the breastbone and extending all the way down to the pubic bone. The next step is to peel back the skin, muscle, and soft tissue. The chest flap is pulled up over the face, exposing the rib cage and neck muscles. Two cuts are made on each side of the rib cage. The rib cage is pulled from the skeleton after dissecting the tissue behind it. The organs are either put back into the body or incinerated. The chest flaps are closed and sewn back together. The skull cap is put back in place and held there by closing and sewing the scalp. The funeral home is then contacted to pick up the deceased.


Does this sound like your most recent project milestone review? It is no wonder that we often do them poorly or not at all. Like the autopsy, they are not pleasant. Nevertheless, they are necessary.


Four things can make your project milestone reviews better.

  1. Do not do a milestone review on every task. Just as we do not do an autopsy on every deceased person. Reserve the milestone reviews for the time periods or collection of tasks that matter most.

  2. Approach the milestone review with a positive attitude. Just like an autopsy seeks the truth, view the milestone review as an opportunity to learn and improve.

  3. Seek an experienced facilitator. Autopsies are carried out by doctors who specialize in the nature and causes of disease (pathologists). Not everyone can or should do an autopsy. Like an autopsy, the quality and relevance of the milestone review will be directly related to who leads it.

  4. Allow ample time. An average autopsy case takes about four hours including the paperwork. That is about right for a milestone review too. Obviously, some reviews are more complicated and take all day.