August 10th, 2016

Establishing Criteria for Success

establishing criteria for success

How do you decide when you’ve done your job?

Any time you work on a project, there comes a moment when you have to stop and ask yourself: did we succeed?

If you begin your projects by establishing criteria for success, you stand a much better chance of answering this question with a resounding “yes.”

Why success criteria are important for project management

Good project management begins with good communication. If your team doesn’t know or understand the project goals, how can you expect to meet them? More importantly, by establishing criteria for success with your client at the beginning of a project, you stand a better chance of flushing out any misunderstandings before they jeopardize the work you’re doing.

What do good success criteria look like?

Well, for starters they should be objective. You want there to be no ambiguity between team and client regarding whether the success criteria have been met or not. Specify exactly what you intend to do and how to measure progress.

They should also be obtainable. This means no “pie in the sky” nonsense. You might have a stretch goal—something that goes above and beyond your baseline standard for success. But that is not what you’re defining right now. Right now, the baseline is what you care about.

Finally, make sure that you, your team, and your client agree upon the success criteria. Talk to your people. If a knowledgeable team member expresses concerns about your ability to fulfill your success criteria, then maybe you need to re-examine. And obviously, your client needs to be onboard: it’s no use working toward one goal if your client cares about something completely different.

Success criteria matter to team and client alike

Both your team and your clients appreciate having a specific goal to strive for. By establishing criteria for success, you give your team a concrete measurement for knowing if they’ve done their job well. And what’s more, you reassure your client that you’re all working toward the same end.

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