I work as Software Engineer. That basically requires me to write (and debug) code day in day out. Every time when a new project starts, we get what’s called as “Business Requirement Document” aka BRD. This BRD has lot of details about what business wants from this project. It also gives outline of features and expected product usage. Along with all this info BRD has a key section called “Success Criteria” or “Acceptance Criteria”. This is arguably the most important section of the document. This outlines set of conditions that have to be satisfied for project to be considered successful.

It’s very important to define success criteria before start of any project. It helps everybody to put things in perspective and sets expectations very clearly. Corporate world has this as common practice. It helps to get wheels in motion. Once things start to roll, everyone has their work cut out to meet the goal defined by success criteria.

Off course different stakeholders may have different expectations when it comes what is considered success criteria. Arsenal Football Club is very good example of this. Their fans pay maximum money for season tickets to watch their team. They expect Arsenal to be competitive (subjective term). They want their team to win trophies, do well in Champions League (another subjective term). However Arsenal Owners and Board seems to be satisfied with Top 4 finish as it guarantees Champions League football following season. Anything above and beyond this is success for them. So apart from finishing 4th, if Wenger wins either of Domestic Cup competition, that’s cherry on top. Since Owners and Board is happy with “Top 4 Finish” as success criteria Wenger tries to achieve that. With this barometer, Wenger has been really successful as Arsenal missed out on Champions League football only this season in 20 odd years he has been at club. However fans are left disappointed!

Having said all this, what happens when success criteria is not clearly defined when project starts? In this case how something is deemed successful or not. With clear lack of success criteria it ultimately results in chaos.

To analyze no “success criteria” phenomenon, one doesn’t have to look too far. Current state of world politics offers lot of clues. In November 2016, Indian Prime Minister Modi took drastic step of cancelling 86% currency in circulation overnight. High value currency notes of ₹500 and ₹1000 were demonetized. When this project kick-started, the objective was to reduce (or in best case eliminate) black money in circulation. Unfortunately there was no success criteria defined. As a result, a year later the debate about if the move was a success or not is still ongoing. And I fear it would go on for few more years.

One other thing that’s critical in corporate world is all the goals and performance criteria must be measurable and quantifiable. This clearly helps employees and their managers to review the targets and results. Unfortunately, politicians are vague in this area as well. When Donald Trump promised “Making America Great Again” there is very difficult to quantify or measure it. US is already the largest economy in the world. Unemployment is at record lows, wages are marginally going up and Fed has raised interest rates. But how do you make this better?

At home in India, Modi promised “acche din” in his election campaign. How do you measure if better days are here. So far inflation has come down almost 7% from its peak. Interest have gone down about 2%. Government is constructing new roads at unprecedented speed. An important tax reform like GST which is going to strengthen India’s federal structure even more has been passed and has come in force. Government has set ambitious targets for electrification of 18000 odd villages which didn’t have electricity even after 70 years of independence. There are lot of other examples and statistics that are available.

Having said that, nobody can deny there are problems that require attention. Economy is still bit fragile. There is still no consensus among experts on topic of job creation. After shocks of currency ban and GST, GDP has fallen in last 3 quarters. Things are expected to turn for better. Then the usual issues like public healthcare, law and order problems and fringe elements that have bothered successive governments for last 70 years are there.

When it comes to doing performance review, my manager has easier task than Modi when he promised “Acche Din”. Prime Minister and the Government has much tougher job when it comes to quantifying how Acche Din have arrived…..

1 Comment

Reforms and middle class – My Blog · February 13, 2018 at 10:49 am

[…] ways. There is no clear criteria defined on what would be considered success. It’s important to define success criteria to allow expectation […]

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