Defining Success

Every leader is concerned with getting the best results from their team.  Often, however we fall short of the mark.  In part, this is because organizations and leaders fail to spend enough time defining success.  How will your team know if they’re doing the right activities?  How will the organization know if the resources expended were best aligned to deliver value?

Success Starts With the Strategy

Far too few companies view success measures as something that start with the strategy and end with the people.  The foundation to achieve goals is understand what the end state is.  With the strategy, a vision is defined.  A well defined vision will provide a mental picture, literally a visceral view of the desired end state.  Rather than the pie in the sky statement many companies build during brainstorming sessions, visions should provide specific detail on the end state.

After the vision is understood, the organization should define how it will measure progress toward the vision.  There are many tools that can be used to make progress and to measure that progress.  One of the most popular is the Balanced Score Card (BSC).  The BSC allows the organization to move the strategy from the high-level overview into the detailed implementation.  However, the BSC does not do an adequate job of translating success down to either project or individual performance.

Building Success Project By Project

The path of building success in the organization must be clearly identified a the project level.  If project success criteria are unclear, the project is likely to achieve many aims, most of which will not advance the strategy or the organization’s aims.  Many organization pay much more attention to defining success on customer projects (which often feed into sign-off) than internal projects.  However, much of the organization’s “expendable” resource pool is spent on internal intiatives.  As such, defining how the organization will know they’ve been successful is key.

Personal Success Stories

The true bottom line in the organization, is defining success at the individual performance level.  This topic provides the foundation for not only moving the organization closer to its strategy, but engaging and retaining employees.  We will look at this topic more closely in the future.

Organizations have many different means and tools available for measuring success.  On a project level, ROIs may be helpful, for HR projects, human change many be more appropriate.  Across the organization, using a tool like the Balanced Scorecard or Management Objectives will help know if the organization has been successful in its aims on an annual basis.  Regardless of the specific tool, it is vital that organizations define a robust tiered approach to assigning success criteria.  It is by defining these criteria that the organization taks an abstract concept – success – and makes it human.