What does success look like?

Every organisation, team, project and individual ought to have a full understanding of what success in any given situation is, what it looks like from their own perspective and that of any other interested party (stakeholder). Depending on your objective success may be measured relative to how others perform (the competition approach) or if a desired objective has been achieved regardless of any perceived competing entities.

So its clear that success, looks like and means different things to different people, if you were to ask what success meant to each of your own team members its very probable that each will provide a slightly differing answer. A great many may be very similar but non-the-less different in emphasis, depending on who they are and how much authority they have to influence final outcomes.

creating alignment

First and foremost you are going to have to create alignment of your team around a commonly accepted definition of what success is and looks like. What the priorities are and who is responsible for delivering them. To do this you will have to facilitate and develop interdependence within your team and possibly the wider organisation too. Setting objectives and agreeing them within your very close confidants is a common practice, after all when they’ve been delivered you’re going to look good, right? Wrong, setting objectives in isolation is a mistake it’s a well trod path to failure to deliver. Alignment in the team and organisation is crucial to realising what you will be setting out to achieve.

Avoid the mistake by being Transparent, Shared with All and being prepared to be measured on performance.


Your declared objectives must be visible to the whole organisation – everyone must be able to have access to everyone’s objectives and performance. Do what you do and keep it so far as is possible public. Transparency is a key driver for alignment across the organisation, a variation from the overall organisational objective can be quickly identified and a course correction made with the minimum of fuss.


For the most part people will work in their own team and follow their own specialisation. But by the action of sharing what your objectives are and how you’re performing you contribute to the wider organisational team objective. Sharing is the most effective way to ensuring alignment to the overall organisational objective.

Be measured

One of the issues with hiding from others and self assessment is that you run the very real danger of creating ‘silos’. Focus on having your performance reviewed and measured from the top down, bottom up and from a sideways view as well. Encourage structured conversations around progress and expectations. Encourage teams to ask for help from others outside the team if struggling with a particular aspect and they think another team may have the solution. Encourage people to offer solutions to issues during the structured conversations.

By doing this you will have sown the seeds for interdependence and so alignment.

track results often

Track results as often as you feel you need, but try to keep to a weekly schedule if you can. Anything longer and you’ll very quickly lose track of where you’re up to and will find you’re off course way further than is comfortable.

Check-ins for results review should be quick and to the point, typically no more than an hour, less if possible. Always do the check-in at the same time each week and make sure everyone attends, this is an important part of the process. A weekly check-in, ideally stood up, kept to around 40 mins is one of the most powerful tools to keeping everyone on track and aligned and focused.

check-in mind-set

At the check-in don’t work at putting out fires and putting things right. Concentrate on how near you are to achieving the objective and the most important results that indicate objective achieved. Focus on improvement, not excuses. You may choose to provide explanations for why a result hasn’t been achieved, this is okay if used as a means of learning and not an excuse for doing nothing to improve.

the ideal check-in process

There are 4 basic elements to a great check-in;

Ask the question – what’s changed in the agreed results to be achieved since the last check-in? Movement in a positive direction or not.

Ask the question – what’s getting in the way of achieving the agreed results? Is the team being slowed-down or stopped even in its tracks? Look at the internal issues, these are easier to solve and then look at external issues which may not be possible to solve but can nearly always be mitigated against.

Next, the question to ask is – based on the results so far and the information available how confident are we of achieving the agreed results? Use a simple Red, Amber, Green system, keep it as simple as possible.

Finally – what are we going to commit to doing to achieve the agreed results? Remember, simply measuring something alone will not change anything, you must agree and act on whats been agreed to make a difference.

If you’re looking for help in structuring alignment and what needs to be measured to ensure organisational objectes are achieved then reach out by email to info@isosyst.co.uk with your inquiry.

philip dawson mba – organisational consultant – 2019-12-07

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