I was discussing success of projects with a group recently. The conversation centred around what success really looked like. After several comments I reminded the workshop members that the business case and the PID are designed to help identify success but will not in themselves create the results. The discussion was interesting as the group expressed real difficulty in developing clear success measures.
I suggested that this was not entirely unexpected as the organisation spent little time identifying what success looked like. It had great ideas but failed to capture what success for these ideas actually means.
The organisation in question deals with improving health care where clear success measures are very difficult to produce. However, this difficulty is made worse by a lack of investment in time to think through and explore key success measures.
I asked the group what kept the project or projects going. After all there is an investment – time, money and resources. The response was interesting and it was not the first time I have heard it. The response; an act of faith keeps the project going; it will deliver success, eventually. But, and they guessed this part, they said it would deliver success eventually but did not know what success looked like and nor did senior managers.
Measurement criteria are essential. The criteria help you determine whether the project is on schedule; whether you should carry on with the project; whether you should add elements or take away elements for the projects, whether additional resources are required or whether to abandon!
One of the benefits of applying a rigorous project management methodology (PRINCE2, APM, and PMI) is you follow steps and stages in a logical order. As one person commented working your way through a methodology ‘slows you down, you cannot leap into planning until you know what you are planning for.’ So, in working your way through whichever methodology you use, ensure you spend time developing clear measures of success. Hold workshops, discuss with fellow project team members or key stakeholders. You may not get it right first time but ensure no matter how painful it is you develop clear success measures.
Without clear success you are shooting for the moon. You may hit the moon but more with luck than judgement.
More and more organisations are looking at the justification for running a project. Clear success measures support this process.