How do you identify the bull’s-eye among your stakeholders? Nothing’s worse than finishing a project and missing the mark you didn’t know was there. At patterns & practices, one of our most effective project practices is to use “tests for success” to help avoid this scenario. You can use “tests for success” whether it’s a project or even just a personal task. It’s simply about defining what good looks like. Think of it as knowing when you’re done, and knowing what good looks like.
What are Tests for Success
Tests for success” are the prioritized success criteria that the stakeholder’s agree to. It’s basically a set of test cases, that if the project passes, the project is perceived as a success. They help clarify outcomes and priorities.
Example Tests for Success
One of my projects was about creating and organizing a catalog of our prescriptive guidance for our customers. Here’s an example of the “tests for success” :
- Single multi-dimensional information model?
- Single unified perspective of the product model?
- Single unified perspective of the content model?
- Backlog is mapped to the information model?
- Capability to do comparative analysis and produce “Consumer reports” view of the catalog and the proposed work? (e.g. What’s our customer demand? … What’s our coverage?)
Stakeholders for the project created and prioritized this list, with prompts from the project team. This exercise helped clarify a lot of ambiguity as well as do a level set for the team.
How Can You Use This
Whether it’s a personal project or a project at work, you can create your own tests for success. I think a small list of the vital few works better than a laundry list. Phrasing the tests as one-liner questions makes them easy to create and use. Here’s some prompts to trigger your own tests for success:
- When are you done?
- What does good look like?
- How will the world be a different place when the project is done?
- What are the most valuable outcomes?
- In order for the project to be successful, we need to …. ?
When you’re in the thick of things, you’ll appreciate having a small set of criteria to go back to and help keep you and everyone involved on track.
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