What Does Success Look Like?

Tuesday, 09 August 2011 06:30
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In any endeavor where one party is seeking to meet another's expectations, it is critical that both share the same success definition. Otherwise, when deliverables become subject to interpretation, this can cause undesired outcomes.

Earlier this year, a client provided me with fairly specific search criteria for a program he was spearheading. I quickly got calibrated on his needs and the external capabilities that he was seeking. I was quickly able to identify 2 viable supplier options, and my client was delighted with the outcome. 

In contrast, last year, a consumer products company sought my assistance to help them to identify new product and packaging options for a high priority project that they were developing on relatively rapid timing. They wanted to ensure that they hadn't overlooked any potentially big ideas as they firmed their product lineup. In practice, I discovered that the team, feeling time pressure, only had energy and patience for very conservative, in-close options. As a result, this significantly restricted the options that I would be able to present to the client...not surprisingly, this was not terribly conducive to my pitching and their adopting of "big ideas".   
 If we would have reconciled the two seemingly conflicting objectives (Big Ideas, Fast) at the engagement's outset, it is possible that: (1) we would have explicitly defined search criteria to accomodate the project timing, (2) explicitly accepted (if not embraced) the risk associated with the challenge as is, or (3) the client would have relaxed project timing to accomodate assessment of more ambitious product options. Or, we could have decided to not engage.My point is: if both/all parties are not fully aligned on success definition at an engagement's beginning, programs risk falling short of fully achieving their goals.

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