How to Develop Completion Criteria and Success Metrics

This article describes two tools that assure that projects are defined with crisp boundaries and good metrics.

The Case of the Growth Playbook Strategic Initiative

A global company launched a strategic initiative for organic business growth, that it called the Growth Playbook.

Strategic initiatives involve abstract concepts such as visions, outcomes, and benefits. The overall initiative involved is a portfolio of coordinated projects intended to find and exploit opportunities.  Some projects were already underway, and some projects needed to be chartered.

Strategic initiatives are programs composed of separate projects integrated to create synergy. The principal difference between programs and projects is one of mindset: program managers need to develop strategic thinking.

As an example, I’ll describe Alpha project, which was already underway at the launch of the Growth Playbook Strategic Initiative. The Alpha project was a new product platform which was key to realizing the product strategy roadmap.

How the Alpha Project Defined its Completion Criteria

My first question when I met with the Alpha team was, “What does done look like for your project?” Many individual opinions were present, but there was not a unified and integrated approach for that project.

The project team had limited exposure to project management techniques, and needed some coaching help for turning the strategic vision into results. People didn’t have a lot of time or patience for “process,” yet they needed a credible execution plan for the steering committee.

The simple technique outlined in Exhibit titled Eight Steps to Defining Completion Criteria took less than an hour of time, and resulted in an improved collective understanding of the project’s expectations.

The exhibit below presents the Alpha project completion statement.

How to define project success metrics

Next, I helped the team establish its metrics with the addition of one word to the setup completion criteria:

“This project is successfully completed when…”

The steps for generating the success metrics are the same as above.  However, because we are now addressing measurements and evaluations, there will be more discussion because of definitions, perspective, and nuance.  While it may feel tedious at times,

Most people welcome the early clarifications of expectations, and the definition of success serves as a powerful team motivator.

The exhibit below provides the success criteria. Notice the explicit measurements.

The team wrote the completion statement and success criteria onto a presentation slide where it served as a touchstone or vision statement.The use of the criteria helped the Alpha project team to finish strong.

Incremental Benefits & Strategic Initiative Program Management

A natural extension of the completion criteria and success criteria exercise is to start the analysis of benefits because the topics of metrics, stakeholders, and success are fresh in people’s minds.


Map project deliverables to benefits statements.

How?  I recommend starting a two-column table with one column labeled project deliverables and the second column label benefits.  You will find that the completion criteria and success are useful inputs that will spark discussion, especially on the topic of incremental benefits.  You want to find ways to provide a steady stream of benefits to your stakeholders. The ideal is to deliver early and incremental benefits.

The entire Growth Playbook strategic initiative benefited because other projects could better understand Alpha’s metrics and contributions to the Growth Playbook vision.

Do you agree that a crystallized vision of the final successful outcome –and with a determined focus – you’ll assure that the steps you take are in the right direction?


About Greg Githens

Author, How to Think Strategically (2019) Executive and leadership coach. Experience in driving change in Fortune 500 and mid-size companies through strategic initiatives and business transformation. Seminar leader and facilitator - high-impact results in crafting and delivering strategy, strategic initiatives, program management, innovation, project management, risk, and capturing customer requirements.
This entry was posted in Strategy Coaching and Facilitation, Useful Practices & Management Tools and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How to Develop Completion Criteria and Success Metrics

  1. Chris Adams, PMP says:

    Thanks Greg. Good advice, Projects should always have an “end” and what a bonus if everyone agrees what that is!

  2. Pingback: Use the Prospective Hindsight Technique to Improve Your Vision Statements and Story Telling | Leading Strategic Initiatives

  3. Pingback: Case Study: Strategic Initiative Kickoff in a Global Joint Venture | Leading Strategic Initiatives

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