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Five Levels Of Success


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

Think about your projects. Without you, your team, their time, and financial resources, the project would never get off the ground. Therefore, value commences with the right people at the right time with the right amount of time available and the appropriate financial resources. From there, the project rolls out. To create and demonstrate your projects’ real value, measure their success along the five categories in the previous section. Let’s call them levels, recognizing the desire to take it to the next level. From the perspective of the funder or sponsor of the project, the next level is more valuable than the previous level.

Here are the five levels of success, which define value for your project.

1. Reaction and Planned Action.

Can you imagine working with a group of people who are uninterested, see no value in the project they are working on, and are uncommitted? The effort to get things moving would be tremendous. Creating value from a project requires that participants view the project as relevant to their situation, important to their success, and necessary to the success of others. Measuring reaction data will show you that the project is useful, helpful, and appropriate — with project participants committing to make the project successful. Perhaps they would even recommend it to others. Reaction data is an important first level of success.

2. Learning.

People can only perform if they have the necessary information and know how to perform. Learning is the second level of success. But they must first buy into the project. Learning can lead to buyin. So, there is a connection between this second level of success and the previous. When people know what they need to know to make a project successful, their resistance will more than likely decrease, motivation will increase, and confidence to do the work will grow. To top it off, they can do the job! In most situations, projects include learning new knowledge and skills. Measuring learning for your project is essential, even if done informally.

3. Application and Implementation.

But it’s not just about knowing; it’s also about doing. Applying new skills, testing new concepts, completing tasks, exploring options, and identifying possibilities represent the third level of success — application and implementation. Measures taken here are helpful because they indicate that people are making progress using newly acquired knowledge, skills, and information. Those who are successful deliver greater value than those who are not. Application and implementation measures consider all processes

and procedures that are necessary to make a project successful, such as tasks, actions, behaviors, checklists, and policies. The information you garner from this third level of success is powerful. It will tell you what is working, what is not, and what reinforcement and support you and your team need to move progress along.

4. Impact.

So what if people are applying what they learn? How is it help ing you improve output, quality, cost, and time? Sound familiar? This mighty question, or something similar, is the question for which our clients most frequently seek our advice. We make the connection between what people are doing and the consequence of their doing it. This delivers the outcomes we define as impact, the fourth level of success. Impact is the most important level of success from the perspective of sponsors and project funders. Impact measures represent the consequence of application and implementation — they are the strategic and operational KPIs.

This level of success includes improvements in measures such as revenue, new customers, productivity, quality, incidents, waste, retention, and time, to name a few. Indicators of these measures are in organization records and databases. In governments, non governmental organizations (NGOs), and nonprofits, impact may include patient outcomes, employment, graduation rates, infant mortality rates, addictions, crime rates, and poverty reduction. In addition to these tangible measures, there are also intangible measures such as customer satisfaction, image, stress, patient satisfaction, teamwork, quality of life, and alliances.

When you demonstrate the value of what you do at Level 4, Impact, you are getting to the heart of the issue that led you to do the work you are doing. Delivering impact relies on success throughout the journey, making measurement at the previous levels even more important. You can only improve the all important KPIs with your project if people see the project as an imperative, know what they need to know, and do what they need to do to make the project successful.

5. Return on Investment.

Is it worth it? In the end, for many projects, this is the bottom line question. The return on investment in a project is the fifth and ultimate level of success. While there are many measures that tell us the financial efficacy of an investment, the two most common measures (and the most adaptable) are the benefitcost ratio (BCR) and return on investment (ROI) as a percentage.

First, the benefit cost ratio (BCR) is the monetary benefits from a project divided by the cost of the project. Benefit cost analysis has been used for centuries and is meaningful to many executives, particularly those in nonprofits, governments, and NGOs.

The second measure is the ROI, expressed as a percentage. The formula compares the net benefits divided by the cost multiplied by 100. The net benefits are the monetary benefits minus the project costs. Derived from the finance and accounting field, the ROI formula is a common measure in businesses. Even consumers understand it, as they can clearly see ROI when they invest their money in a savings account with a financial institution. For most executives, it shows the efficient use of funds. Impact alone is one thing; knowing how the monetary value of your project compares to how much you spent on the project is another. The higher the ROI, the more efficient the use of the funds.


*Reprinted from the book “Show the Value of What You Do” with the permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Copyright © 2023


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.