How Will You Measure Success? (Part 1)

There’s an old rule in project management: If you can’t measure it, it didn’t happen.

This is important because, at the end of any initiative, you have to be able to show what the initiative accomplished and show it in a concrete way—in other words, produce data to back up whatever conclusions you’ve made about the success of the project.

Now, stop your grumbling. This really is important.

You need to be able to demonstrate how the amount of time put in to the project resulted in useful, cost-effective change—I guarantee you, a three-person team working full-time for six months to implement a new process that saves the company a whopping $150 a month in reduced hours for one task won’t be seen as a success.

And similarly, rolling out a change initiative that you, as the project manager, know in your heart has streamlined processes and eliminated wasteful repetitions to reduce expenses and increase employee satisfaction—but that you have no numbers to back up…well, you might as well tell the people in charge you brought in a colony of elves to do the work for free from now on.

You need data to show both where you started and exactly how much improvement your initiative brought about. How do you get that data? Like almost everything else in life, start at the beginning.

Define Success and Who’s in Charge of It Up Front

After your project kickoff, the first meeting you should hold is Success Mapping. In this session, you meet with your Change Management team and the process owners to define the two key elements that will help you document your project’s success:

  • Success OwnersYour Success Owners are one individual from each department involved in the initiative who will be responsible for working with the change management team. The Success Owners will need to understand each specific task and goal, and will then be responsible for: rolling each out in his or her department, explaining each to the department, and ensuring all tasks are completed correctly.
  • Key MetricsKey Metrics are the specific indicators you will track throughout the initiative. For each indicator, you must define what it is, how it’s measured, and the interval measurements must be taken. Before implementing anything, take a baseline measurement for each metric, so you know exactly where things are at the start!

Your Success Mapping session begins when you send out the meeting invitation. Besides thanking your participants for joining the effort, provide an agenda that includes a brief explanation of the importance of Success Mapping. Also, give them a heads-up (so they can be thinking ahead of time) that in the meeting you will together:

  • Assign one Success Owner from each department
  • Define and establish three Key Metrics for each department


Success owners will be easy to define in your meeting. Metrics on the other hand will take some discussion. In Part 2, I’ll walk through the process to follow to work out your metrics, collect data, and document your initiative’s success. See you back here then!

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