Degrees of success and failure

Degrees of success and failure are possible on each objective. Aim to get three levels of success and four more levels of failure. The levels of success and failure are how the organisation will see the unit outcomes for the year, not how you see them. The pre-defined levels of success and failure can disappear after you have specific pictures of success and failure for each objective. The pre-defined levels of success and failure are not themselves a scale for consequence or impact.

What to read first: Draw lines of potential year-end outcome pictures

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Degrees of success and failure are possible on each objective. Aim to get three levels of success and four more levels of failure.

For each of the objectives, you will foresee about seven possible levels of outcome success and failure. These are the best seven levels to start with.

Success/Failure level
Far better than expected Unplanned outcomes better than planned
Excellence
Success Planned outcome, the minimum that can be called success
Qualified Success Unplanned outcomes worse than planned
Partial Success
Failure
Worst imaginable

There is nothing magical, or standardised, about seven levels. The suggested seven levels create an easy way to move in the right direction. On your first run through these steps, it’s best to keep the style of column labels suggested by the Clear Lines above, and not to simply replace them with wording from elsewhere. Wording like ‘medium’ or ‘severe’ is not equivalent and not helpful.

Reference table for seven success and failure levels.

The levels of success and failure are how the organisation will see the unit outcomes for the year, not how you see them.

The short headings for levels of success are intended to correspond with the following organisation views of your annual unit outcomes. These are views back from the end of the year.

Success/Failure level Organisational view
Far better than expected The unit was never expected to bring this kind of boost to the organisation. Unplanned outcomes better than planned
Excellence The unit should just keep it coming.
Success The unit should continue on course, and try to improve. Planned outcome, the minimum that can be called success
Qualified Success The unit should carry on, but avoid repeating that ‘qualification’ next year. Unplanned outcomes worse than planned
Partial Success The unit needs to focus on those weak areas, and consider necessary changes.
Failure Something about the unit or its manager must change fundamentally.
Worst imaginable The organisation should never have started on the path that led to the unit as it became.

If you are unsure whether a given outcome picture represents ‘Partial Success’ (or any other level), you can resolve the level by anticipating the organisation’s view of the outcome and matching that view in the reference table.

The pre-defined levels of success and failure can disappear after you have specific pictures of success and failure for each objective.

The seven pre-defined levels are a guide to drawing pictures of specific outcomes. The pictures of specific outcomes replace the general levels of success and failure.

The pre-defined levels of success and failure are not themselves a scale for consequence or impact.

In this guide, consequence is understood as the specific outcome that is expected to follow a risk becoming a reality. That outcome is represented by a picture, and it is unique to one of your unique objectives.

You can have your documentation look a lot like a conventional consequence (impact) scale. The similarities are on the surface. The differences are fundamental.


Drill-down articles

Reference table for (seven) success and failure levels

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More on the seven levels of success and failure

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Parent articles

Draw lines of potential year-end outcome pictures

To really understand the objectives, draw a line of potential year-end outcome pictures on each objective, from best to worst. First create spaces for the levels of success and failure. Then sketch pictures for each space. Lastly, test and improve the pictures. If you don’t understand the objectives well enough to draw the lines of pictures, you will not be able to evaluate risks.

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Index to the topic Risk in work unit business planning

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