Goal Tree – Stating the Critical Success Factors

A Goal Tree is the kind of simple looking yet tricky tool. almost every time I explain the Tree principle and structure, my audience reacts with more or less subtle signs of impatience or disappointment “is this all?”.

Assuming the Goal is properly stated, which is far from being a given,when it comes to define the Critical Success Factors (CSFs), it is my turn to get disappointed.

Goal Tree

Goal Tree

Critical Success Factors (CSFs) are top most objectives that must be achieved in order to have the Goal achieved.

CSFs like any other objectives has to be set in a SMART way, SMART being an intrinsic quality as well as an acronym for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

A non-SMART CSF would be “reduce our costs”. This is wishful thinking at best. Specificity makes the difference between a wish and a goal, therefore the statement has to be clarified: what kind of costs are we talking about? Unit costs? Overhead expenses? Operational expenses? How much savings are we striving for? Who’s in charge? Is this everybody’s objective or only managers’?

How will this objective be Measured? According to budget? Relatively to turnover? What period? How can we make sure the efforts will pay off and that contributors are on track?

Is this objective Achievable? Objectives that seem too far away and out of reach are discouraging, while objectives too easy to achieve are not very motivating challenges neither. If the challenge does not seem achievable, it’s maybe necessary to break it down into less difficult sub-objectives.

Realistic objectives can be challenging but must remain attainable. For example they must be achievable with current technologies or knowledge.

Finally, objectives must be Timely framed. A goal without date for a completion, is not a goal, it’s a dream. Time frame is also useful to positively stress the organisation, to give a sense of urgency.

Yet I keep being surprised how fluffy objectives are set, CSFs are stated.
CSFs are Critical in essence, meaning that if not achieved, the Goal is not achieved.

Stating vague, fluffy CSFs will not engage people to contribute and are no effective guidelines to align contributions.

CSF definition are top management’s responsibility and the quality of their statement reflects the quality of their strategic planning.

No wonder so many “strategic projects” fail with so poorly stated objectives. It is like top management defining a Goal and let the shop floor staff take care about details, with no more directions than the sole vision statement.

More about >Goal Trees here<


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