Identifying Your Critical Success Factors
By Michael Wilkinson, CMF
Managing Director, Leadership Strategies, Inc.
We’ve written previously about the importance of having SMART objectives. These objectives define the key outcomes you desire to achieve. However, a mistake people often make is jumping straight to developing strategies after they have identified their desired outcomes. At Leadership Strategies, we recommend a different approach. After developing objectives, we recommend taking the time to understand the critical success factors (CSFs) that must be controlled to achieve those objectives. By identifying your CSFs, you will have a much clearer understanding of the key strategies necessary to achieve your objectives.
What are critical success factors?
Think of them as the key conditions that must be met to achieve your objective.
If we were building a home, your objective might be to be in a suitable house by December 31st. The CSFs, or key conditions for success, might be the following:
- Sufficient funding
- Quality materials
- Superior contractors
- A blue print that meets our needs
- Close monitoring of the construction process
Note the format of critical success factors. They indicate the condition that must be met. The critical success factor wasn’t just “materials,” but instead, “quality materials.” The critical success factor wasn’t just a “blueprint,” but instead a “blueprint that meets our needs.”
Note also that critical success factors are nouns (the conditions that must be created) not verbs (the actions you take to create the condition). English majors will recognize that critical success factors can also be gerunds – nouns that are created by adding “ing” to the end of a verb (e.g., close monitoring of the construction process).
Let’s take a different example. If you were a car manufacturer your objective is to sell cars. What would some of your critical success factors be?
- Pleasing body styles
- A customer-focused dealer network
- Quality-focused and efficient manufacturing process
- An effective marketing campaign
Once you identify your CSFs, you will want to make sure you have strategies that address each CSF. For, if these are truly the key conditions that must be met to achieve success, then you will want to do what it takes to ensure that these conditions are indeed met!
What are your critical success factors? What strategies have you put in place to ensure these key conditions are met? At Leadership Strategies, we can help you figure it out. Our strategy facilitators can provide one-on-one consultation or facilitation support for your entire team.
Michael Wilkinson is the Managing Director of Leadership Strategies – The Facilitation Company and author of The Secrets of Facilitation. He is a Certified Master Facilitator and a much sought after strategic planning facilitator and speaker.