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The Search For Success Measures

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by Patti Phillips Ph.D. and Jack J. Phillips Ph.D., authors of “Show the Value of What You Do

Why do you do the work you do? The specific work — the project you are working on now, in fact. How will you demonstrate the value of that project, or the system you are installing, or the new procedure you are implementing? Defining success in clear terms is the first step to demonstrate value of what you do. But as they say, the first step is always the hardest. Too often we try to select one or two measures that, in the end, fail to communicate real value. That is because the measures may represent only one viewpoint or type of data. Here are some categories of measures that reflect different perspectives of value.

Happiness, commitment, and motivation. Reaction from the project team defines success. The perception of a project by team members is a vital measure of success. Are they happy with it? Are they committed to making it work? If answers to these questions are negative, there is a likelihood the project won’t get off dead center. And while important, these measures are not enough.

Learning and capability. Sometimes the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and credentials, as part of a project, may indicate success. Without a doubt, if you learn new knowledge and develop new skills to make a project work, there is opportunity to contribute additional value to the organization. But these measures of success are not enough. Knowledge is important, but it is only powerful when it is used.

Habits, behaviors, and actions. Routine and systematic actions are indicators of success. People are on the move; things are happening. So what? Action or behavior change without a purpose is just busywork. The consequence or impact of actions, behaviors, or habits is where real value resides.

Impact and consequences. Here is where the real value of work becomes apparent, particularly from the perspective of sponsors and supporters — those people funding projects. These are the measures in the system and organization records that reflect ultimate outcomes of work. You have likely heard them referred to as key performance indicators (KPIs). Measures of output, quality, and time are KPIs of importance to project funders. These measures are easily converted to money, making value evident or tangible. Other measures such as image, collaboration, and teamwork, are also important. These measures are more difficult to convert to money and represent intangible measures of success. Value may be inherently known, but much less obvious than the improvement in tangible measures. Tangible and intangible indicators of value are great—but they, too, are not always enough for some to describe the real value of your work.

It was worth it. Now, we are getting somewhere. Answering the question, “Is it worth it?” defines ultimate value. It answers the ROI question. Did we get more bang out of the buck than we put into it? How do benefits compare to costs? ROI informs our decisions daily. When we purchase an item, we ask ourselves, Is it worth it? Am I going to get more benefit (tangible or intangible) by spending my money this way, than I would by holding on to it or spending it another way? From a financial perspective, if benefits exceed costs, the project or activity is successful.

Defining success can be difficult if you are only looking through a single lens. Perspective is important. Demonstrating value from multiple perspectives will help prevent other people from undervaluing what you do.

 

*Reprinted from the book “Show the Value of What You Do” with the permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Copyright © 2022.

 

Patti Phillips and Jack Phillips

Patti P. Phillips, Ph.D. is a consultant and researcher, and the author of “Show the Value of What You Do“. She serves on the UN Institute for Training and Research board of trustees, International Federation of Training and Development Organizations board, The Conference Board Human Capital Advisory Council, and the Institute for Corporate Productivity People Analytics Board.

Jack J. Phillips, Ph.D. is the author of “Show the Value of What You Do” and an award-winning thought leader in the field of talent development. He is a global keynote speaker and has written over 100 hundred books, and all focused on the importance of showing the value of the work. He serves as chair of ROI Institute, a globally recognized consulting firm.