How do you know when your project has been a success? Learn how to define your success criteria but setting SMART expectations.

How do you know when your project has been a success? Surely the measure of success is the one that is defined by the person asking for the project in the first place?

Before we know we have achieved greatness we first need to understand what that person expects the outcome of the project to be and what they would deem as failure or success.

Introducing “Success Criteria”!

Let’s just say we built a hot tub for Bob. How do we know we’ve met Bob’s idea of success if we don’t ask? We think we’ve been successful because a) Bob has his hot tub and b) it works.

As it happens, Bob had a specific idea about his hot tub. He wanted it to produce 40 bubbles per square meter per 30 seconds. He wanted this because it met his requirement of floating his beer in the water without beer spilling into the hot tub.

He also wanted the temperature to always be set to 28 degrees without having to wait for it to heat up.

There are other things Bob wanted for his hot tub – none of them appropriate for this article – but the point is, Bob’s idea of success is now different to ours.

By setting out the success criteria of a project right at the beginning, you know what you’re looking to achieve in your build and the client is happy.

What else?

Luckily, Bob has been quite specific but if you don’t have a Bob, you need to translate their success criteria into SMART expectations. SMART expectations does not mean making an educated guess. No no, just like baking a cake, there’s a lot more to it.


What is the measure of success of a lemon drizzle cake? What would be a set of SMART expectations?

Creating a successful lemon drizzle cake involves a few different elements – let’s pick one for now and go for the drizzle element. A successful drizzle would look something like: 

S: The drizzle needs to be a lemon flavour
M: The % of lemon versus other ingredients should be 65%
A: This is the industry standard in drizzleness
R: The recipe I’ve chosen states the difficulty level as easy – you don’t need to be Mary Berry
T: The drizzle needs to go on the cake last and I need this cake for a bake sale tomorrow

Ok – so it looks like we’re well equipped to execute the perfect Lemon Drizzle. You defined the criteria and made it SMART.

To talk more on SMART success criteria and outcome based services please get in touch. 

About the author



Mark Pratt

Director, Hydrogen Consulting Solutions

Mark is the leading authority on successful Project Management. He does this by sharing his coal-face knowledge on LinkedIn and his Blog. If you'd like to engage his services, Mark is Director of Hydrogen Consulting Solutions and can be contacted here. Mark can particularly help with outcome based engagements to ensure his clients pay for actual delivery rather than the number of days spent!

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