This scenario happens in every organization: They host a meeting or an event or attend a trade show. Afterward, they each address the question, “How did it go?”

“It was the best trade show we’ve ever attended,” states the marketing manager. “We had more people come to our booth than ever before, and we were covered by the local news station.”

“It was great. I got applications for dealership from 15 potential customers,” reports the sales manager.

“We likely won’t be going again,” predicted the president. “People coming to the booth, or having our company featured on the news, those are nice but they don’t pay the bills. Even if all 15 of those dealers become customers, we won’t generate enough profit to cover the cost of attending the trade show.”

Ironically, they all may be right. But was the trade show successful? For most organizations, determining whether a program or campaign or event was successful is not practical for one simple reason: Success was never defined.

The good news is that, while it requires some discipline, it is a fairly easy problem to solve. At a minimum, write down the answer to this question, and share it with all of those people that will be participating in or supporting the project:

“What do we want to be different for our organization as a result of this project?”

Make it concise, and as quantifiable or quantifiable as possible.

Some companies use a Project Control Document for any project that requires any significant resources or that will be relied upon for significant benefit. Most of the time, the entire document is only one page long, but addresses questions such as these:

♦ What is the name of this project? Describe it.

♦ Who is proposing this project? Who is being asked to approve it? Who will be responsible for it?

♦ What do we want to be different as a result of this project? What is success? How will it be measured?

♦ How will this be project be evaluated? A meeting? A report? By whom? By when?

♦ What financial resources will be required? What human resources will be required? What other resources will be required?

♦ What is the schedule for this project?

♦ Is this project consistent with our plans and budgets?

Ideally, a team answers these questions, not just the boss. In any case, the approved Project Control Document should be in the hands of the people planning for the project, implementing the project, or supporting the project.

The benefits of such a process are notable:

♦ There will be far less ambiguity whether a project was a success or not.

♦ Everyone will be focusing on the same outcomes, creating greater efficiency and better results.

♦ With everyone working together for common results, teamwork is enhanced.

Dave Bartholomew is retired after a career as a business adviser to leaders around the world. He and his wife Nancy also owned Simply Living Farm, a retailer of goods for a sustainable life. Prior to that he was CEO of several manufacturing companies in the outdoor recreation industry. He has authored three books, written numerous regular columns and taught at many universities.