Getting clear and aligned about goals is a critical practice for any project, big or small. All too often, groups don’t take the first step of articulating their goals up-front. Even more often, groups are not specific enough about what success or failure looks like. As a result, groups move forward thinking they have alignment, only to find out later that they don’t.
The Goals / Success Spectrum is a toolkit designed to help you get very clear about goals and outcomes. It defines success along a spectrum — from minimum to target to epic — which gives you a much more nuanced and specific sense of what you’re trying to accomplish as well as different scenarios for success and failure.
There is both a digital and a paper version of the toolkit. The digital version is a Google Docs template. (You’ll find the same template embedded on our meeting templates as well.) To use, click on this link to open Google Docs, then select File > Make a copy… in the menu.
Goals / Success Spectrum
The paper / stickies version is part of the larger DIY Strategy / Culture toolkit. To use, you’ll need to download and print large-sized versions of the Goals / Success Spectrum. You’ll also need stickies. (You can purchase full, pre-printed versions of these kits with stickies as well.) You’ll want to allocate about an hour to work through the toolkit.
Using the Spectrum
Start by naming your high-level goals — what you’d like to accomplish and why. Don’t worry about complying with a S.M.A.R.T. framework here, as that’s where the success spectrum will come in.
Brainstorm on stickies (or directly in your Google Doc) different scenarios for what success looks like. Be as specific as possible. If you previously used the Strategy / Culture Bicycle and already have stickies defining different success scenarios, you may re-use those stickies.
Put the scenarios in the appropriate column: Minimum, Target, and Epic.
- Minimum: These are the minimum things that must happen in order to call a project successful. These scenarios should almost certainly happen if the group does its work diligently.
- Target: These are the things you’re hoping will happen. They should be hard, but attainable. They should have a 40 to 70 percent likelihood of happening if the group does its work diligently.
- Epic: This is what success beyond your wildest imagination looks like. Fill this column in twice, as everybody usually self-censors themselves the first time around. Don’t be shy! These are not your target scenarios, but it’s nice to envision what you really care about.
Brainstorm on stickies (or directly in the Google Doc) different scenarios for failure, and place them in the Failure column. Be as specific as possible.
Identify the discrepancies on the poster — the same success scenario in different columns, or a minimum success scenario that is more lenient than a failure scenario. Discuss these discrepancies with the group, and adjust accordingly.
Once there are no longer any discrepancies on the poster, do a gut check. Are the success scenarios too hard or too soft? Are these truly the scenarios that matter most? Is there anything missing? If necessary, either reframe the goals or re-adjust the different success scenarios.
(Download instructions for more.)
Related Blog Posts
- “Be Intentional, But Hold It Lightly.” (January 6, 2014)
- “Hack: Defining Good Goals, Success, and Failure.” (January 9, 2014)
The Goals / Success Spectrum is part of a larger DIY Strategy / Culture toolkit, which also includes:
- Strategy / Culture Bicycle. Surface, align around, and prioritize critical questions about strategy and culture.
- Roadmap. Explore different scenarios and develop a strategic plan.
- Mindset Cards. Get more concrete about desired culture.
Eugene Eric Kim and Amy Wu (Duende) created this toolkit. The idea of defining success along a spectrum was inspired by Kristin Cobble. The idea of explicitly incorporating failure scenarios was inspired by Seb Paquet, who also named the “Epic” column.
Unless otherwise stated and to the extent possible under law, we dedicate this toolkit to the public domain.
May 4, 2015
- Released as part of v1.0 of DIY Strategy / Culture toolkit
January 26, 2015
- Updated fonts and colors to new Faster Than 20 styles
- Added arrows to emphasize Target column. (Contributed by Amy Wu)