Did everyone on the team understand what success looked like?
In the rush to quickly plan and execute projects, we often skip some important steps. One of those is defining success and failure. For example:
New software product launch project
- Will you consider it a success if you meet your deadline or are the included features more important?
- If you come in under budget and on time but your customer doesn’t like the way the software works, is that a failure?
- If your customer loves the interface but bug fixes are driving the project over budget, have you still succeeded?
Charity fundraiser project
- Is the amount of money raised the key success factor, or the number of attendees?
- If you pack the house with people and fun times, but don’t have enough sponsors to make money, is that a failure?
- If your raffle attracts some high quality donations but the people that attend are not buying, is that a failure?
New office location for your retail company
- Will you wait a year to measure success, or will you be assessing the numbers after one quarter?
- Will the project be considered a failure if the center opens on time and on budget, but first year revenues fall short of projections?
1. Document the success and failure criteria. It takes some time and thinking to pull together the factors that constitute success and failure, but doing so puts everyone on the same page. It’s hard to achieve success if you don’t know what that looks like. And getting to the end of a project and thinking that you’ve done what was asked but finding out that no one knew what was asked is no fun.
2. Make the success criteria measurable within the short-term. Understanding that project success means a 10% growth in net income from the event is vastly different from thinking that doubling attendance would make the event successful. Is coming in within budget more important than pleasing the customer? How will you measure your customer’s satisfaction, if that is important? Avoid criteria that can’t be measured at the end of the project. Over the longer-term, the new office that you opened may be a dismal failure but that doesn’t mean that the project was a failure.
3. Pick factors that the team can control. Having sufficient corporate sponsors for an event is within the control of the project team. How much attendees are willing to spend on a week at the beach probably isn’t, particularly if alcohol is not being served at your fundraiser.
Stop focusing on managing projects faster and easier, and start focusing on managing projects well. That means defining success and failure.
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Photo credit: Crazy bike photo by Bailey Weaver; License 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0); https://ow.ly/KD5MY