What it means

No definition outside of a corporation.

What my company thinks it means

A to-do list of every single thing we need to do to complete a project. These points must be determined at the beginning of the project and can never be changed because my project lead doesn't know how to use Microsoft Project. Remember to include the bathroom breaks that you will need to take 4 years from now!

Sentence used in my office

"I want a list of inchstones that need to be met going forward. I need to see if you are planning any breaks that you might be able to start on the [other project] instead."

How this sentence could have been said

"Are you planning of taking a shit at all today? Wouldn't you rather wear a diaper so you can work on a fifth simultaneous project instead?" (I may be slightly bitter today.)

You may have seen mile markers on the side of most highways (at least in the U.S.). Typically, they are placed every 1/10 of a mile. These are modern day equivalents of older milestones. Milestones were left along a trail to let you know that you are still on the trail and how far along the trail you are.

Mile Marker
Mile Marker
This is a mile marker (milestone) that I saw on the Appalachian Trail.

"Milestones" also refers to import events in a person's life. I guess "lifetimestones" never really caught on.

Projects have a lifetime, too. The end of the design phase, the first beta test, and the deployment test can be considered milestones of a project's life. It's a little bit of a stretch and a little abstract, but I can understand it. Then, of course, corporations can go too far.

Rather than using an engineering example, I'm going to try to explain this using something more people can relate to: putting together a birthday party. This is a party for an adult, so it won't be nearly as long as a list as for a child's party.

For my birthday we go to a restaurant then head to my apartment for beer, crappy movies, and board games.

That's 4 milestones. During a company project, these milestone would be laid out in a group meeting. Next, the group creates tasks to divide the work.

This imperfect example list is already more exhaustive than it needs to be. Normally, this is where everyone would break apart and start to do their parts. Someone could invite friends while another could get party supplies.

While performing complex tasks, it's sometimes helpful to write down a to-do list. No one but the person doing the task usually need to see this list, but when inchstones are involved, they're necessary.

There are 63,360 inches in a mile. It seems that's how many sub-tasks my project lead wants me to list. Everything must be pre-planned and written down, even if you are just looking to go to the bathroom. This is the point when everything goes to Hell.

If the word "inchstones" starts becoming a staple of your status meetings, it's time to transfer to another group or dust off your résumé. Once the micromanagement starts, it'll never stop. Your progress will halt and never return.

Also, pre-planning your need to pee sucks.