“What is Success?”

by Lakecia Carter, PMP

One of the most powerful questions a PM can ask a project team is “What is Success?”. In one of my team meetings, I asked the group to participate in a discovery exercise around Define Success CollectivelySuccess. Each team member wrote his or her definition of success on a sticky note. As each person posted notes on the board, it became apparent how aligned and misaligned we were. The rest of our meeting was spent debating and arriving at a common definition of “Success” for our project. What about you? When was the last time you asked this question of your team? Here are 4 things to remember when you do:

#1 Don’t assume that your definition of success is the same as everyone else’s. Success is in the eyes of the beholder. Asking the question opens up interesting dialogue and possible debate. Spend time upfront and you will avoid standing around at the end saying “What was that?”

#2 Discover the drivers behind each success criteria.  Ask why stakeholders define success the way they do. What is motivating them? It will give you greater insight into their behaviors and help manage expectations better.

#3 Distinguish between short-term and long-term success. Many PMs understand the value of starting small and scaling up. However, everyone does not understand this as a best practice. Someone once said “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Getting stakeholders to be realistic about priorities and timing can be a challenge, but if you keep the long-term vision in mind, you can win them over.

#4 Define success collectively. Build consensus around a common goal. Every stakeholder may not agree, but it is important to set achievable project goals as a team. Once you do, refer to it often to remain focused.

Once you define success, an even greater follow-up question is “How do we measure success?” In other words, how do we know we are successful? Too many teams focus on “done” instead of “done right”. Make sure you have key metrics and milestones to measure success.

Success can be rewarding, especially if we all understand and agree on what it is. Taking the time to visit and revisit will make a huge difference!

If you found these tips from Lakecia Carter, PMP of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.


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