Definition of Success

Key to a Winning Job Analysis

When you have a clear definition of success, you have a clear understanding of where you want to go. It is true in life and it is especially true in a job analysis.

Consider this, if you can clearly describe what you need accomplished by an employee, the search and measurement of success in that position becomes easier to locate and simpler to verify.

Success Factor Tip 1 - Learn From the Past

When your are developing your definition of success, borrow from past experience. This means look at the people who had some measure of success in a position. Define what it was that made that person successful. Was behaviors made the person successful? What skills were most often needed? What background did the person bring to the position that was important? What training made the most impact?

If there were a few people in the position, which people had the most success and in which areas were they successful. Be sure to consider each persons strengths and what they brought to the position.

Success Factor Tip 2 - Learn From the Bad

Even in failure there is a chance to learn. This means that you should also look at the people who failed in the position and try to understand where they failed. When creating a definition of success it is also important to understand the origins of failure. This may require putting egos aside or bringing in outside help. Truthfully looking at failure is one of the most difficult things we humans must undertake.

Look at past employees who did not do so well can be eye opening, but it requires being dispassionate. Don't just write someone off or try to place blame. Sometimes things just don't work and that's life.

Here's an example. Suppose you take your top salesman and make that person a manager. This does two things; 1) It takes that salesman off the street, at least in part 2) It puts that person in a position of leadership.

definition of Success

There are all sorts of negative consequences, first your sales will drop. Second that person may not be management material. Third the assumption is that this person will be able to motive and train others to duplicate their success.

So the question here in creating your definition of success, is what were the assumptions made that were not verified when this person was promoted. Was it assumed that a great salesman would make a great sales manager? Was it assumed that this great salesman could teach or motivate others to duplicate success?

You get the point. Make sure that when you have a hiring failure, there is a debrief and analysis of what went wrong. It can be invaluable in making future choices.

Success Factor Tip 3 - Take a Step Back

Have you ever been looking for something and it was right there in front of you but you did not see it? This form of far sightedness extends to us humans in many ways including how we look at our companies, jobs and the people we work with every day. When creating a definition of success, sometimes it may require you to take a step back and take a holistic approach.

This is most often happens in positions with complex or conflicting requirements. Is it the requirements of the job that are creating the problem or is it the person in the job? By this I mean is the person in a no win situation, no matter what the skills or abilities they bring to the job.

An example of this is might be someone who has responsibilities but little authority to execute. When things get this complicated it often requires an outside consultant or an outside perspective to shed new light. This gets into organizational dynamics and is beyond the scope of this exercise. Suffice to say if you get to this point, it is important to rectify the issues with the position then go about finding the person to fill it.

Success Factor Tip 4 - Look Outside

Sometimes if it is a new position, you don't have examples of success. Maybe it is not new but there is a lot of turnover and nobody has really ever been successful. If you don't want to hire an outside consultant or bring in a fresh set of eyes to look at the problem then you need to look at how other companies solve this problem.

How you ask? That's a good question. Often it requires some networking. When you attend conferences and trade shows you can network with peers. Talk to them about what they are doing. There are online resources like LinkedIn or Plaxo where you can ask questions from peers. When you interview people put this on the slate of questions. Failing that, again bring in an outside person to take a look at your organization.

Final Thoughts

It is a tremendous amount of work to develop a definition of success. The rewards are great but there is a bit of effort required. There is one thing that is certain, if you are clear about how you define success in a position, it then becomes clearer what is required both from a skills and background but also it can help you find out if a person even has a chance for success.

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