Success Defined

Defining success seems like it should be really easy.  I frequently ask project managers, team members, sponsors and executives to “tell me what success looks like.” I am always amazed at the wide variety of answers I get.  Many times the definition that is shared provides a perspective that refines the project understanding and makes the difference between a project that is delivered and a project that is a resounding SUCCESS!
S – simple
U – user focused
C – clear
C – complete
E – everyone is aligned
S – sufficient level of detail
S – supports strategy
If success is complicated and convoluted, how will you know when it’s achieved?  That’s why the first component of a success definition is “simple.” The definition must also include the perspective of the end user or the person being impacted by the project.  What do they need to be or do differently when success is achieved?  Clear and complete definitions means that assumptions are made explicit.  If there are three countries that will use a new process, then the three countries are identified.  This is the difference between saying Singapore, Australia and Malaysia versus the Asia Pacific region.
Alignment is something that takes place as the definition is formulated.  By having discussions with leaders to clarify the success definition the ongoing alliteration enables alignment.
Some people prefer a lot of detail and others want brevity.  The success definition must contain sufficient detail for someone to understand it but not so much detail that it becomes verbose. Finally the definition of success must support the strategy of the organization.

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