When we work in an Agile way, it’s crucial to clearly define a successful outcome for every project. A clearly defined outcome means that each of the millions of daily project micro-decisions will be made through that lens, both consciously and unconsciously.
With a clearly defined outcome, some of the iterative deliverables or results might be discarded or evolve, but the final product will still achieve the outcome. I’m excited to share with you this framework I have developed, the S.P.I.R.I.T. of Success, to help guide this process.
S – Singular.
A singular outcome is a specific high level statement of purpose. When stated clearly, there is no confusion or conflict. WHY are we doing this? Choose one criteria to rule them all.
I remember working on a project with a talented and highly capable engineer. The specifications were “to be cutting edge and at the forefront of technology”. He developed an elegant high-tech solution that achieved that very objective but reduced the profit margin, and the project was deemed a failure.
Unfortunately the singular outcome of success, profit margin, wasn’t defined. That left a technically beautiful and functional product relegated to the dustbin of history.
P – Priorities.
I have a friend who owns a KitchenAid; all chrome and sexy. However, in my house, we do Christmas cake. It’s a thing. All that dense, sticky dried fruit, the butter, sugar, brandy… it takes a solid hour to mix that baby. We needed a high performance machine. For us, function was more important than aesthetics.
When I’m exploring priorities I ask the same question in many different ways until we get to the heart of the matter. “What is important here?”
Variations include “What is the most important thing?” “Is this more important than that?”, “If you had to choose only one of those things, which would it be?” And so on, until we have a clear hierarchy of precedence.
I – Inspiring.
I always have a conversation, early and privately, with the sponsor to talk about messaging for their project. “I have this great idea which will make a huge difference to our profit margin!” may not be exciting enough for everyone in the team and the stakeholder group.
What WOULD get everyone excited? It’s crucial to get that messaging right so that it is motivating for everyone in the team, AND the stakeholders you expect to help and champion the project. These varied impacts are not mutually exclusive; one person may look forward to working with an external specialist, one may be excited about their increase in pay, and another might love the focus on innovation.
R – Relevance.
If we zoom out to an organisational level, we can look at the broader context of this project’s relationship to other things in the organisation. The individual project may not be exciting, but it might enable something else exciting to be successful.
For example, “This tech deliverable is very similar to something we already have, but now we have an opportunity to do it better. We know when we do THIS better, then all of the other things we do will improve”.
Without establishing relevance, there is a high chance of delivering something superfluous, or worse, in conflict with the organisational direction.
I – Individuals Contributing.
Before a project begins, the sponsor workshops their S.P.I.R.I.T., and the very next thing is to take it to the team. If individuals are involved, then now is the time to work collaboratively to evolve the S.P.I.R.I.T. and build the project together from the ground up.
Delivering the parameters without contribution invariably sounds the death knell for a project.
T – Trending.
The alignment of the outcomes and outputs of a project are crucial for engagement and growth in an organisation. In contrast, when a team feels like despite delivering successful projects, they are not moving towards the larger vision, their motivation plummets and the best people will gravitate to another company.
Relevance is about the broader organisational context of right now. Trending is about looking at future consistency, and asking “how does this fit in the big picture, and does this align with future organisational goals?”
What is the Spirit of Your Successful Outcome?
I’d love to hear from YOU about the challenges and strategies that you encounter when you are defining your successful outcome, because when we collaborate and share strategies we ALL get better. Jump onto The Agile Project Manager on Facebook and share your insights!
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