Can I get a virtual show of hands: How many of you have traveled down the road of implementation quite a ways before realizing you don’t know exactly what it is you should be accomplishing? I’m embarrassed to admit that there has been a time or two (maybe more!) in my past where I have been part of a team that has invested so much time and energy into a project only to present it to the executives who no longer share the same “vision”. Out the window goes resources, budget, and a chunk of pride.
It’s not just big implementation efforts, either. The same applies for smaller projects and tasks, as well. At SME Digital, we pride ourselves on implementing a measurement component for every strategy plan and tactic we execute. This means a lot of frameworks. It’s slightly embarrassing how many frameworks I have created and shared with the team only to be let down easy and sent away with hours of work ahead of me adjusting it to what the client was really asking for.
What if I told you that there is a way to eliminate communication breakdowns, misinterpretation, and the need for mindreading? Well, today is your lucky day!
The Answer Is In Conditions Of Satisfaction
Conditions of Satisfaction is a documented list of every expectation required to meet “success” in a project, task, etc. that has been signed off on by every stakeholder.
Whether you are working on implementing a strategy internally, partnering with an agency partner on a project, or creating a report for your CEO, always start by defining the conditions of satisfaction and having it approved by every stakeholder (even if it’s only 1).
In addition to saving you time from spinning your wheels trying to extract exactly what your stakeholders want, defining COS at kickoff also:
- Helps keep the project on track. It’s harder to be side-tracked when expectations are clearly set and documented.
- Ensures that you meet expectations. Oftentimes the goal of the project is refined several times and stakeholders change their mind throughout its lifecycle. By having the COS clearly defined, everyone sticks to the plan, and if a condition needs to be changed, removed, or added, the group is looped in.
- Mitigates politics. Those hostile conversations caused by a team member not being heard are few and far between once everyone has had a chance to review and sign off on the COS.
Best Practice For Conditions Of Satisfaction
Did I scare you with the thought of having multiple stakeholders sign off? Chances are, all of your stakeholders are going to be a part of the project kick-off or in a briefing session. This is the time to collectively come up with COS. I recommend the best practice of sharing out the COS after compilation and giving everyone a few days to give their final approval. This allows everyone some time to clear their mind and review it again to ensure everything is accounted for. If you have a ton of stakeholders for one project, chances are this project is a big undertaking and the extra few days it takes to finalize COS sure beats the months you will work on it, hoping you are headed down the right path.
Bottom line: We like results. Results come from clearly met expectations.
It is possible to overdo it on the COS, which leaves you feeling paralyzed to make a move. Best practice for most projects is 5 to 7.
How are you currently managing project expectations? Have you solved the problem with COS or something else? Please share in the comments section below.