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Sports and Business—How to Judge the Success of a Win

By Peter Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Sep 13, 2010

Last night’s Redskins game demonstrates that wins aren’t always pretty. But, “a win is a win is a win”, right? However, there are more felicitous ways than others to achieve the desired outcome. Winning a football game 13-7 with no offensive touchdowns—and snatched from the jaws of defeat by a holding penalty as time expires—may be more stressful than it needs to be for all involved.

A professional football game, other than being a “game”, is a business project. You plan for the engagement, and you execute your plan during the game. Afterwards, you do post operative analysis to see how you could have performed better, and then you move on to the next project. Even though they won, the Redskins will take a long look at the game film and apply lessons learned before moving on to the next project.

People often review unsuccessful projects, and review successful projects less frequently. However, even successful projects need reviewing. For example, some companies experience a growth period (multiple wins in a row), and then experience a painful adjustment due to the staff attrition rate—they worked the players too hard. Good post-project reviews might have helped to avoid this problem.

So how to judge the true success of a project after it is completed, especially when the scoreboard shows a win?

There are three primary ways by which I judge the success of a business project. The first, obviously, is whether or not the desired result was achieved. But as I said, there are better ways to accomplish the goal than others. So the second thing I look at is whether or not there was attention to detail throughout the entire project lifecycle. Good attention to detail throughout, from estimating to delivery, usually means a good project.

The third way I judge the success of a project is by the attitudes or postures of the people involved, over the course of the project. Was the demeanor generally positive and upbeat? Was there a healthy amount of productive disagreement? Did the team members work well together?

These are important things to consider in both team sports and individual sports. In other words, whether you have a large or small business team, these good principles apply.

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