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Knowing What Matters—Your Success Criteria—Is a Guiding Light in the Dark

by Nilofer Merchant  |  
April 28, 2009

Here's a scenario many of us have experienced: The CEO sets the revenue goals in the annual business plan; the plan is handed down; and the business units scramble to make the numbers.

Only one thing is wrong: We don't know how the decision was made about what matters.

Figuring out what should shape decisions before actually considering the various options available increases the relevance of the final decision. It's a reminder that you're not seeking which strategy is the right one, but which criteria will lead you to a strategy that is right for your organization. Accordingly, it's valuable to consider criteria filters and match them against the many possible strategies.

Deciding what matters leads to solid criteria development. Deciding what success looks like will drive what matters. There is a link between what matters in a general sense and what matters to your business unit or organization. Follow these four steps to figure it out:

1. Determine what success looks like

Paint a picture with as many defining elements as possible. What does the financial piece look like? Add in whatever marketing and communications you'll need to get the story out internally and externally.

If success includes growing the business, perhaps becoming No. 1 in the market, what does that entail? What steps will get you there? Do you have the people to make success possible, are their skills being used to greatest advantage, and are the roles they've been assigned the right ones

Make changes before, rather than after, implementing the strategy. Check R&D and manufacturing—what part will they play, and how much more needs to be done?

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Nilofer Merchant is the CEO of Rubicon Consulting (, a strategy and marketing consultancy based in Silicon Valley that solves complex business challenges for high-tech companies.

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  • by puneet Dua Wed Apr 29, 2009 via web

    Hi, Nilofer

    Very Comprehensible article. it straighten out the criteria which are needed to be considered every now and then for the success.

    Puneet Dua

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