Top Menu


Identifying 10 Early Success or Failure Indicators

John Evoy of  Irish Men’s Sheds Association has been involved in many projects. This has helped him identify some failure indicators and some success indicators. He wrote this blog, in the hope that he might help others identify these indicators. 

Over the last 10 years or so I have been involved in several non-profit projects; some have been fantastic, others have worked out OK and some have not worked at all.

During that time I’ve had a number of experiences which, upon reflection, were the moments when some of my best ideas took hold and began to flourish. I’m talking about early in a process when no one else can see anything special happening but there was a sense that something very important was happening. We have all closed deals, secured the funding or had a proposal accepted by the powers that be, but the occasions that I am referring to here are much less tangible than that. On just as many occasions there have been times when I felt that something was not right in a project and as I couldn’t clearly pinpoint the threat, I progressed only to eventually experience the failure. I often said to myself “I knew something wasn’t right” but at the time I didn’t act. It is so easy to identify all this is hindsight. Wouldn’t life be easier if we could catch these ‘tells’ in the moment?

There are so many sub projects that make up our organisations and we have new ideas all the time. We simply can’t run with all of them. We have to decide what to do and what not to do. There are all the usual major considerations such as budget, the risks involved and the potential contribution to the overall purpose of the organisation. I am writing this piece as an exploration, hoping to help myself identify if a project is going to be successful or not. Maybe it might help some of you guys too.

So what are the earliest signs of potential success or impending failure? I say potential success because so much more has to happen to ensure a successful project, such as hard work, determination and very often, a slice of good fortune.

Early signs of potential success

  • You get energised by talking or even thinking about the project.
  • The entire project is in line with your (& your organisations) values and ethos.
  • You would be happy to work on this project even if you never earned a cent from it.
  • Those you’ve spoke to and trust also think that it has great potential.
  • Others involved share the same vision, purpose and values.
  • Some parts of the project seem to fall into place synchronistically and people offer to help.
  • You seek out feedback and integrate the learning from the beginning of the project.
  • Your gut feeling or intuition tells you that you’re right track.
  • It’s a simple concept and people understand it the first time they hear about it.

Early signs of impending failure

  • You have that feeling that something’s not right but you progress anyway.
  • You have to continuously assess if the project breaks your value system.
  • You’ve chased the money – sometimes the conditions accompanying funding are too restrictive or lead you in the wrong direction.
  • You’ve ignored the advice of your trusted confidants / mentors.
  • Others are involved for personal gain or have an alternative agenda
  • The project is always hard work. You and team would prefer to be working on other stuff.
  • You are determined to “do it your way” and to stick rigidly to the original idea.
  • There is a lack of cooperation from on the team members, who all have different ideas about how to progress.

So much of the contemporary leadership and entrepreneurial teaching tells us how a certain amount of failure is an essential ingredient in the eventual success, but wouldn’t it be great to be able to identify if a project is doomed or has the potential to be great at the earliest possible moment.

– John Evoy, Irish Men’s Sheds Association

The International Men’s Sheds Conference “learning from down-under” is taking place October 3rd – 5th.

Details here

Small Business Can Newsletter
Small Business Can is run by businesspeople for businesspeople. We share our experiences, successes and failures. Sign up for our insightful (and sometimes funny) newsletter and stay up to speed with all the latest insights.
No comments yet.

Leave a Reply