IAF Methods

Definitions of Success (OD-8)

by for . Last edit was over 2 years ago
60 - 180 26 - 50
Definitions of Success is part of the Opportunity Development series of workshops
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To establish concise Definitions of Success for the project or opportunity and to reach agreement about what a completed successful project or opportunity looks like. This method also helps the team to think in phased based ways.


You will be able to upload attachments once after you create the method.


  • the forms (see download) need to be copied: large ones for display on the wall and small ones for individual worksheets.



Setting: Lots of wall space is needed.

Number of participants: 26-50

Types of participants: Project participants

Time needed: 1 to 3 hours or more depending on the size and complexity

Pre-Work Required: Project phases need to be defined. The forms (see attachment) should be prepared ahead of time. There should be at least five small sized sheets per participant and several larger sized for display.

Type of Facilitator-Client Relationship: The facilitator has to keep the group moving and not get bogged down in perfecting statements.

Facilitator personality fit: any


1. This tool establishes concise Definitions of Success for the end of the project and for each phase.
2. Each of the Definitions of Success will have a reference date, usually the ending date and a metric or measure of success. See the form.

1. Choose a reference date for the whole project. This should be long enough after the completion of the project to see if it is working as planned.

2. Divide the project into phases.

3. Come to quick agreement about the definition of success for each phase.

4. Divide the group into teams one for each of the Definitions of Success.

5. We want to have each team to write their Definitions of Success. You should have definitions for every aspect of the project. Pass out the forms.

6. Each form should be filled out in the following way:

a. We want full sentences. This is because if you only use a phase in a few weeks it is possible that it will not mean anything.
b. Write in past tense (We drilled, we purchased, etc.).
c. Put the reference date on the form. This is either some time after the project is completed or the end of the phase.
d. Write out the Definition of Success in a sentence (this does not need a lot of editing work but capture the idea).
e. Formulate the definition by asking these kinds of questions:
  • i. What is our overarching statement that defines what success is?
  • ii. We will have achieved success if?
f. Decide on and write out how this will be measured.
g. Check against the Opportunity Statement (or overall definition of the purpose of the project). If necessary either change the Definition of Success or recommend changes in the Opportunity Statement.
h. Go to the next Definition of Success and repeat steps a. to e.

7. Are there any questions?

8. When the groups are done ask them to report their definitions and any changes they are recommending about the Opportunity Statement.

9. After each report.
a. Are there any questions for clarity (Questions of clarity are not opportunities to criticize but rather to gain understanding).
b. Are there any suggestions about how to improve the statements?
c. Are there any conflicts between the Definitions of Success?
d. Are we agreed that this is acceptable?

10. When all the reports are completed. Assign someone to make whatever corrections need to be made and someone to take responsibility for typing this up.

1. What did we achieve today?
2. What did you learn?
3. What is the next step?


1. The forms should be prepared ahead of time. There should be at least five small sized sheet per participant and several larger sized for display.

2. Teams might refer to Value Drivers and Critical Success Factors to help develop Definitions of Success.

3. The following questions might be useful as people are developing their Definitions:
- What is required to finish the feasibility assessment of this opportunity?
- What does selecting the best way of doing this project mean to you?
- What does execute mean for this opportunity?


Follow-Up Required: Next workshop

Usual or Expected Outcomes: Definitions of Success.


Derived from: unknown

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