Working backwards to what success looks like

Some people can see. Some can see if shown. And some will never see.

To see what success looks like, you really need to be in that first category. To learn to see what success looks like, you need to be in the second category. And if you can’t see… then maybe project management is not for you. Unless you attack it in a different way – from the details.

I’ve been having ongoing discussions with people about success and what it means to them. For a key activity, identifying what success is varies widely and with a systems approach that I like to take – success is practically built in. But from a business or reporting sense a different approach is needed. I have observed that some people can’t see the forest for the trees ever – and so it means a change in reporting and activities. I have also observed that when a person who cannot see is asked to produce a vision then it is immensely stressful for them. A mark of a good leader is identifying this and working to it accordingly.

I’m working on developing a system to improve big picture thinking at work – mostly around how we view security and how it integrates across systems, data and personnel. Success looks like agile response, appropriate update procedures and adherence to best practice. Not the most concrete of concepts there – and building these ideas for staff to relate and engage with is challenging. I have been building it up as a system for some time – quarterly security audits leading to patching / revision of best practice and developing procedures around incident reporting etc. Only after 6 months are staff seeing the bigger picture come together. But asking them to apply these principles to other activities in the business isn’t working – and I’m now adjusting my strategy around this.

Applying a systems approach to developing what success looks like is the best way I’ve found to mitigate an inability to see the final big successful picture. Big things are made up of small things and identifying where a person’s worldview extends to means we can work on what their big picture looks like. If it’s to the end of the week, month or project then work within that. Build multiple iterations of this to achieve the end goal and use that as a basis of the vision to be achieved. Hopefully as time goes on, the big picture is revealed a bit like a jigsaw puzzle and illumination is achieved! Sadly though, some people will never get to this point, so I direct my efforts to helping them build good short term processes that are directed towards the end goal. Still a win! Not everyone can see the success at the end, but they can still see parts of that success – building block successes if you will.

Thanks for reading. This is an internal discussion I’ve been having for a while and I find writing can bring clarity (sometimes….).

Photo by invisiblepower from Pexels


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