Rigor Test FAQs


  • What is it?

    A Roadmap tells the story of the change initiative in a way that allows executives to easily understand what is happening and make the course corrections needed to ensure success. It breaks it down into a series of milestones—typically 15 to 25—along with time frames, financial and operational metrics, and clear accountability. Most important, a Roadmap highlights the key risks and lead indicators for delivering the financial and operational impacts and assigns lead indicators to regularly test for them.

    Please click here for an example of a Roadmap that received a high score on the Rigor Test.

  • How does a Roadmap differ from a project plan?

    A Roadmap is a high-level breakdown of the major milestones for the project to achieve its target impact. It gives executives insight into how a specific initiative is proceeding and how it fits into the larger program. It does not include day-to-day activities and is meant for periodic (typically monthly) reporting.

    By contrast, a project plan is a detailed task list of activities and sub-activities that outline everything that needs to happen to complete the project. It is designed to help the project manager and project team members, not the executives overseeing it.

Rigor test, Part I – Clear plan

  • What is it?

    The first part of the Rigor Test ensures your Roadmap has a clear plan to deliver results. This phase of the discussion assesses whether the Roadmap is clearly defined, logically structured, and readily implementable, with clear accountabilities, milestones, and tangible impacts.

  • What are the ways to improve my 'Part I' assessment?

    Clarify ownership
    Ensure that the Roadmap has a clear owner—the person responsible for implementation—who carefully reviews the Roadmap and weighs in before it’s finalized. Ensure that the Roadmap has a clear sponsor—the person accountable for its ultimate success. Talk through any possible hesitancy or lack of commitment in either the Roadmap owner or sponsor.

    Improve milestones
    Ensure that the Roadmap has the right number of milestones (typically 15 to 25) and that they link to measurable impact, with a clear description of how the organization will achieve each one. Check that milestones are spaced with sufficient timing to give leaders a clear view of progress. Make explicit in the milestone and impacts how the Roadmap contributes to the overall program objectives.

    Consider capabilities
    If new skills or capabilities are needed, create milestones that capture progress in developing those along the way.

Rigor test, Part II – Quantified impacts

  • What is it?

    The second part of the Rigor Test addresses the impacts (both operational and financial), their sources, and leading indicators. This part of the discussion considers whether impacts within the Roadmap reconcile with the original business case and whether the plan specifies what will trigger the financial and operational results. It also ensures that the Roadmap highlights when progress is slipping, that leaders get enough advance notice to make course corrections, and that milestones are in place to confirm that the organization achieves and sustains the target impact.

  • What are the ways to improve my 'Part II' assessment?

    Redefine impacts
    Confirm that all impacts—financial or operational—are clearly defined, measurable, and quantifiable along a clear timeline. Ensure that milestones are in place, with associated KPIs to gauge progress, every two to three months (or every four to six months at a minimum). Check that the timing of impacts aligns with the timing of their associated milestones.

    Review KPIs
    Make sure that meaningful KPIs are in place to gauge financial impacts, and that those impacts support the original assumptions of the business case for the initiative.

    Conduct a sanity check for each metric
    Consider how you will measure one-time or recurring financial impacts (such as revenue, cost, or headcount) and whether these metrics are already in place in the organization. Confirm with relevant departments —including finance and HR—that they are aligned with these measures and the targets are achievable. Make sure these metrics are included in the roadmap and tied to specific milestones.

    Consider the long term
    Verify that measures are in place to sustain the improvements beyond the Roadmap. (For example, put milestones in place three, six, nine, and twelve months after implementation ends to ensure benefits are sustained.)

Rigor test, Part III – Interdependencies and risks addressed

  • What is it?

    The third part of the Rigor Test focuses on interdependencies and risks. This phase of the discussion assesses whether all critical interdependencies and risks are clearly identified and addressed, are embedded in milestone descriptions so that they can be tested regularly and managed accordingly, and a leader from another part of the organization is able to describe the initiative.

  • What are the ways to improve my 'Part III' assessment?

    Get an unbiased opinion
    Ask someone from another department, unrelated to the project, to review the Roadmap. That person should be able to understand the milestones and impacts and what they are designed to achieve.

    Address interdependencies and risks
    Identify all critical interdependencies and key known risks (such as operational, technical, behavioral, health, safety, security, and environmental), along with quantifiable lead indicators to address them at the milestone level. For interdependencies, ensure that an explicit conversation with all involved parties has taken place and lead indicators are in place at least one and three months prior to delivery.

    Address and foster collaboration
    If the initiative requires collaboration across business units or functions, talk through how all parties will work together. Identify all key internal and external stakeholders, including the most influential supporters and skeptics. Use the supporters to generate momentum for the project. Engage the skeptics, address the points they raise, and—ideally—involve them in solutions.

    Use the DICE tool
    Conduct a DICE assessment to confirm the Roadmap is set up for success. DICE is another change management tool, which we discuss on an accompanying website (with associated HBR article).