So, what does success look like?

Hello, change leader,

This is now part 3 of the topic we started on: Why 2024 is the year to get it right. Part 1 was about the Why. Part 2 was about the What; today, part 3 concludes this topic.

Why is defining success important

How would you know which way to take and where to go if you do not have a clear destination?

Defining what success looks like is as important as defining your business outcomes and strategy. Without it, any road is the right road; there is no real accountability, and you risk burning resources (time, money, energy and talent) in the process.

The common myths about success

There are many misconceptions about defining success and what good looks like. Let me shed the light on some of those common pitfalls.

  • Defining the outcome without defining what success looks like is only half the work.
  • Success measures are not the same as KPIs
  • Success is not encapsulated in a few lead or lag measures; it is a lot more than that.
  • On time, on budget, and on scope (call it the triangle) means nothing if you do not define success holistically. Plus, in this day and age, it is so basic and old school to think of this triangle as a measure of success.
  • Success is not a one-line or a one-statement that you add to your one-pager

What are the components of Success?

  • Culture & Wellbeing
  • Adoption
  • Agility
  • Simplification
  • Automation
  • Knowledge base
  • Organization Capabilities
  • People Capability & Capacity
  • Business Outcome

Note: This is not a menu; you do need them ALL

Designing for integrated and holistic Success is a game-changer

Fusing your strategy and business outcomes with what success looks like allows you to:

  • Refine your outcome and make it clearer before starting your design and activation process
  • Bring in the different voices in the organization and include them in your strategic direction, saving you tons of grief and going back and forth along the way.
  • Enables you to design a well-balanced program of work that will truly achieve the outcome but also elevate your capabilities to grow into a stronger, leaner, and more adaptable organization

But we already do that! Do you?

It might seem we are talking about the same thing, but in most cases, we are not. Let me clarify

You might have a meeting dedicated to asking what success looks like. You might have it as a question in a form or presentation. You might have a set of KPIs “already agreed” by the strategy office, the leadership team, or the PMO, and you need to fill in the targets. This is not what I have in mind.

The above is still the traditional way of defining success, which is basic, does not set you up for success and is not enough.

To give you an idea of the scale and the ins & outs of this Success definition exercise. Mind you, this can vary depending on the organization’s maturity, the team’s talent level, the program scale, and how intense the change is.

I worked with Emirates many years ago, managing a big part of their Customer Experience Transformation (Over a billion-dollar program). This program took a few years and was an absolute success. Customers worldwide are reaping the benefits of this program in their travel experience, choices, care, and comfort. And as an organization in its revenue, market share and world-class benchmark scores. I ran their Success definition exercise, which took over 3 months to really hone into what it truly is. This was about creating an integrated success roadmap that is infused into the many programs of work designed after that. This exercise uncovered the many undercurrent issues, blind spots and risky assumptions that would not have been clear until execution happened, which risks deviating the whole program and causing too many issues.

Without this work, this program was guaranteed to achieve mediocre results, get many leaders frustrated, many leave their jobs, a frustrated board, and, most importantly, lose market share to other competitors.

The success definition workshop took 2-3 days in other smaller organizations and programs.

The Success definition exercise is no small exercise, a couple of lines or questions here and there. And certainly not left to the teams “to figure it out”. It is the leadership team’s role to ensure that they bring in the team’s voices in a well-structured framework and as an inclusive exercise that gives them clarity.

There are a few things to remember:

  • Take the time to navigate through the success components to define a holistic and integrated Success.
  • Keep it under check all the time. The outcome from the Success definition exercise becomes your checklist instead of the (on time, on budget, on scope triangle).
  • It can change and will change. Keep an open mind about this and strong communication channels to cascade, align (and re-align).
  • Use the success definition in designing your programs and, most importantly, stop and pause programs that no longer create the desired success.
  • Use the outcomes from this exercise to know what talent you need and clearly define the contributions of each team.
  • This is not a top-down or a bottom-up exercise. This is a collaborative co-creation approach.
  • This is the Leadership team’s responsibility; do not burden your teams to come up with this on their own.

One last thing:

I surveyed 178 leaders and organisations that I have interacted with and worked with within the last 10 years and asked them how they define success in an integrated and holistic way. The results were shocking and, most importantly, directly correlated with the success of their strategy execution efforts.

  • Sample size 178
  • Geographical coverage: Australia, Singapore, Netherlands, Germany, UK, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Canada, USA, South Africa, India, New Zealand
  • Leaders level: Director, Executive, C-Level, Consulting Partner, Consulting Director
  • Company size: varies from 250-1000 employees (47%), 1001-4999 employees (28%), 5000+ employees (25%)
  • Industry: aviation, supply chain, financial services, energy, utilities, government, engineering, technology, consulting

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Feel free to comment or message me directly.

Till next week…

Jess “Success” Tayel

If you are interested in learning more, here is how to connect with me and my work:

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Thank you


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