What is “success criteria” : Project Management 101
How do you know when your project has been a success? Surely the measure of success is the one that is defined by the person asking for the project in the first place?
Before we know we have achieved greatness we first need to understand what that person expects the outcome of the project to be and what they would deem as failure or success.
Introducing Success Criteria … and Bob!
Bob is a client of your’s … he is looking for us to build him a hot tub. How do we know we’ve met Bob’s idea of success? We may assume we have been successful because a) Bob has his hot tub and b) Bob’s hot tub works.
But, as it happens Bob had a specific idea about his hot tub. He wanted it to produce 40 bubbles per square meter per 30 seconds. He wanted this because it met his requirement of floating his beer in the water without beer spilling into the hot tub.
He also wanted the temperature to always be set to 28 degrees without having to wait for it to heat up.
There are other things Bob wanted for his hot tub – none of them appropriate for this article but the point is Bob’s idea of success is now different to ours.
So it’s no good assuming, we HAVE to get this right upfront and ASK the client.
By setting out the success criteria of a project right at the beginning, you know what you are looking to achieve in your build and the client will be happy with the end result.
But what if the client doesn’t know?
Luckily Bob has been quite specific about his sucess criteria but you won’t always have a Bob. Some clients don’t know what they are looking to achieve or they find it hard to articulate it.
By writing down what you think it is they are looking for, it gives a solid basis for dicusssion and challenge on what they are looking to achieve. You may not get it right but at least they will tell you where they don’t want to be!
In any instance, the success criteria must be SMART. You’ve heard of this right? We all have. It’s a time served model but the reason for that is because it works!
Becasue SMART does not mean making an educated guess. No, just like baking a cake, there’s a lot more to it (I’m moving away from Bob and bringing you cake).
Sucess criteria should be:
What is the measure of success on a lemon drizzle cake? What would be a set of SMART expectations?
Now I’m no baker but it sounds sensible that a successful lemon drizzle cake would have a few different elements – let’s pick one for now and go for the drizzle element. A successful drizzle would look something like:
S: The drizzle needs to be a lemon flavour
M: The % of lemon versus other ingredients should be 65%
A: This is the industry standard in drizzleness
R: The recipe I’ve chosen states the difficulty level as easy – you don’t need to be Mary Berry … phew
T: The drizzle needs to go on the cake last and I need this cake for a bake sale tomorrow
Ok – so it looks like we’re well equipped to execute the perfect Lemon Drizzle with no soggy bottom. You defined the criteria and defined it SMART.
So remember, for your projects … ALWAYS write down and play back the success criteria. Never assume it and always my friends … be SMART.