In a previous post I presented the five dimensions of project success from Shenhar and Dvir’s seminal book ‘Reinventing Project Management’. I followed this up with several posts on how to define project efficiency, impact on the customer, impact on the team and business and direct success.

Today I want to concentrate on the fifth dimension: Preparation for the future.

The five dimensions of project success

But first, let me recap the five dimensions so we know where we are:

  1. Project efficiency
  2. Impact on the customer
  3. Impact on the team
  4. Business and direct success
  5. Preparation for the future

Today’s topic, preparation for the future, is about what long-term benefits the project will deliver. This is in some way an extension of business and direct success, but with a much longer time horizon.

Think about this as building or enhancing infrastructure, create new opportunities and developing new capabilities in the organization.

The deeper implication of preparation for the future

I vaguely recollect an old quote from a presentation long ago that went something like this:

Our long-term strategy is to be really successful. Out short-term strategy is to survive long enough to get to our long-term strategy.

This exemplifies the contrast of the reality of here and now with the less clear future state.

Shenhar and Dvir gives us a list of five main areas to focus on:

  • New technology
  • New market
  • New product line
  • New core competency
  • New organizational capability

This list is very practical and easy to relate to; it is very tangible. It also highlights the need to not only crank out the goods, but also to have the ability to react to changes in the external environment by adapting quickly. At least that’s how I read it, it’s kind of buried within the idea of core competencies and organizational capabilities.

Perhaps a better way to look at it is to think of it as finding and acting on the opportunities inherent in any major change while minimizing or containing any negative effects.

However, I can’t escape thinking that there is more to the future than this. We know we can position a company and its products and services relative to the competition as measured on tangible factors like product features and functions, financial ratios and other accounting measures.

What we are not considering is the position in the minds of the consumers. This is a lot more inscrutable and difficult to get at, but we also know that this matters. If the customers lose faith in a company or its products and services, the end is near (or, at the very least, big trouble is in the offing).

Perhaps the simplest concept to apply is that of ‘trust’. If we do not have the level of trust we want or need from our customers, we should work on improving that. And we should track progress.

If we believe that customer trust matters, what about employee trust? Is the company a place where people want to come and work? Do they believe there’s a future for the company and that the company will treat them well enough to make staying worthwhile? If the answer is no, there’s trouble ahead.

Under the impact on the team dimension we have a measure on retention of team members. We need to extend this short-term idea to the company as a whole because recruitment and retention has a direct effect on the ability to realize some, if not most, of the other goals for this success dimension.

Consequently, I think we need to add two more goals to our list:

  • Customer trust
  • Employee trust

Scorecard for preparation for the future

Now we can use the standard format used for the other four dimensions to create a very similar assessment instrument for preparation for the future as presented for impact on the customer.

I make a distinction here between ‘should’, ‘can’ and ‘will’ because we may have high aspirations, but at the same time we also have to realize that we face real life constraints.

Category How should this project impact preparation for the future if we faced no constraints How can this project impact preparation for the future?  How will this project impact preparation for the future?  How can we measure the actual impact? 
New technology
New market
New product line
New core competency
New organizational capability
Higher customer trust
Higher employee trust

The above table is useful to work through the options and ideas until we can land on the practical and concrete goals in the ‘can’ column and the specific measures. It is these last two columns that it makes most sense to go forward with.

I recommend that scorecards for the five respective project success dimensions be included in the project charter up front and then in the project closure report at the end where we summarize the outcome of the project and present what was actually accomplished.

dot How to define preparation for the future: a dimension of project success