What is Success?

Have you ever wondered what constitutes success? If not, why not take a moment now.

Did you find an answer?

If you started with your success you probably arrived somewhere in the vicinity of “I got what I wanted”. Maybe you got the job you applied for, negotiated a raise or convinced someone to do something for you. One way or another, you needed something and now you have it.

What about the success of your current project? Or the vacation you are planning for you with your family or friends? How would you define a sucess of something that “touches” a number of different people? It turns out the answer is not that different from the first case. The overall success is the sum of satisfaction of all these different people. Some of them may be more important than others, think about your spouse or in-laws, but in the end, each and every person involved will have a judgement in their mind. Maybe an unconscious one at first but if someone asks “How was the trip?” he or she will get an instant answer.

We can take it one step further and apply the same logic to a whole company. Each initiative, whether a strategic one or something small will have several people it will influence and several people who will influence it. We call them the stakeholders. You are one of them. The stakeholders can also come in groups. If you are working on something for someone else you will have users. Maybe also customers who can be users but don’t have to be. The main reason why you are working on your thing is probably the fact that some needs of these customers can be satisfied better than they are today.

Unfortunately in the context of even a small company the situation is much more complicated than this. At the least, you will need to collaborate with other people working in different parts of your organization. Do you know how your project influences their current needs?

We can dig deeper: are they going to share your rewards when the project goes live? Are they overwhelmed with demand for their services and you are just one of the small problems they need to deal with? How about other parties: whose “turf” is your project going to encroach on? Are you working on automating someone else’s job? Who will have to deal with maintenance once you are done building your solution? Is the helpdesk equipped to deal with users’ questions?

The actual situation is usually quite complicated. It is always necessary to simplify the reality for purposes of decision-taking but I think often we simplify too much too early. It takes much less effort to spend 30 minutes to think about all the stakeholders you have that to recover from disappointing a forgotten important one. If your success is the sum of all the changes of satisfaction of all your stakeholders you really mustn’t forget anyone important.

VBD Consultant