Mastering the Second Critical Strategic Question–Part 1

The second part of Terry Schmidt’s book Strategic Management Made Simple focuses in on the relationship between the four critical strategic questions and how they are captured visually in the Logical Framework approach.   As a review from the first part of his book which introduced them, those four critical strategic questions are:

–What are we trying to accomplish and why?

–How will we measure success?

–What other conditions must exist?

–How do we get there?

The second chapter of this second part focuses in on the second critical strategic question, “How will we measure success?”

1.  Introduction

The answer to the first question will yield you the Objectives, which are the …

–Outcome of the project (the answer to the question “What are we trying to accomplish?”)

–Purpose of the project (“why is the project being done from the standpoint of the customer–what business need is the product of the project is trying to fill?”)

–Goal of the project (“why is the project being done from the standpoint of the organization doing the project–what strategic need are the benefits from the project going to meet?”)

The answer to the second question will ask you “how do you measure success” for EACH LEVEL of the objectives.

2.  Four Tips for Meaningful Measures

The four tips for meaningful measures are that they must be

  • Valid–they accurately measure the Objectives
  • Verifiable–clear, non-subjective evidence exists or can be obtained
  • Targeted–quality, quantity, and time targets are pinned down
  • Independent–each level in the hierarchy of Objectives (Outcome, Purpose, Goal) has separate measures

Let’s say you are a member of a non-profit organization that is putting on an an educational event such as a conference.   You want the conference to be successful–that is an Outcome.   Why do you want it to be successful?   So that those who go to the conference learn useful information.   That’s the Purpose of the project from the standpoint of the person who goes to the conference.   If the conference is successful, your organization that puts on the conference will gain benefit by enhancing its revenue.

What would appropriate successful measures be?

–For the Outcome, since you want it to be successful, you would want a lot of people to attend.   That would be measured by “number of attendees”, and would be verified by looking at some sort of “registration list.”

–At the Purpose level, looking at the project from the standpoint of the person going to the conference, that person should get a lot of useful information from the conference.   But how do you measure that?   Ask them the question! “Ask them, did you get a lot of useful information from the conference?” and put it in an objective format where they have to answer from, say, 1 to 5, with “1” meaning “not at all” and “5” meaning “very much so.”   That survey then becomes the means of verification.

–At the Goal level, looking at the project from the standpoint of the organization putting on the conference, you should enhance the organization’s revenue that it can towards its operating budget for programs that benefit the members of the organization in other ways.   The measure will then be the revenue the conference brings in and the verification will be the receipts from the sales from the registration for the conference.

I hope you can see by this example that, by adding success measures, the vague phrase “the conference will be successful” now has a meaning which everyone can point to.   The three measures discussed above are

valid, in that they do actually measure what the corresponding Objective is

verifiable, in that they are based on non-subjective evidence that can be obtained

independent, in that they are all different for the three levels of Objectives

The one element of a success measure that was missing in the above example is that they are not targeted, meaning that they do not numbers attached to them because they were, after all, hypothetical examples.   If this is a conference that is being given year after year, then one way of attaching a target to the success measures would be comparing them to the results of last year’s conference as a benchmark, and creating them consciously as targets that would make the conference even more successful than it was the previous year.    Now you have quantity (number of attendees) and quality (satisfaction of attendees) targets, and you could add a time target by trying to encourage earlier registrations through an early-bird registration discount.

3.  Conclusion

With the Logical Framework Matrix as a visual metaphor for the strategic planning of the project, with the answers to the first question, “What are we trying to accomplish and why?”, you get vertical linkages between the levels of Objectives, the Outcome, Purpose, and Goal of the project.   With the answers to the second question, “How will we measure success?”, you get horizontal linkages between the levels of Objectives and their Success Measures and means of Verification of those measures.

Sometimes the result of developing these horizontal linkages is that you realize your Objectives are too vague.   That means you need to go back to your Objectives and sharpen them up and make them more focused.  That is the subject of the next post.


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