Critical success factors

Skill level: Basic, intermediate


Critical success factors allow an organization to assess the success of a project, selection process, or other activities with stated goals. Critical success factors are the most important points or elements in a decision process. Quantifying the values helps remove emotion and improve objectivity as much as possible. These factors are defined prior to any decisions being made or in most cases before the project starts.


  • Set clear performance objectives
  • Objectively define successes
  • Easily adaptable to any situation
  • Vital component of any organization’s strategy

How to Use

  • Step 1.  Brainstorm and list the factors for success.
  • Step 2.  Stratify/organize factors with common objectives.
  • Step 3.  Add a weighted value for each of the critical factors.
  • Step 4.  Evaluate results, ideas, and solutions against the factors.

Relevant Definitions

Stratification (stratify): Regrouping concepts, ideas, or proposals that have similar meanings or objectives.

Reference Tool

Prioritization matrix: Tool to assess the value of an idea or concept in regards to the critical success factors. Use for selecting the best candidate for a specific position, best solutions, or best options.


Critical success factors for a good leader:

  • Crafts well-thought-out plans
  • Passionate about the business
  • Willing to spend time and effort
  • Ready to make personal sacrifice
  • Projects the right attitude

Example: Critical Success Factors and Prioritization Matrix

An interview team has been formed to select a new human resources (HR) manager for one facility. Prior to conducting the interview, the team defines with the customer (the facility’s management team) the key success factors for an excellent HR manager and determines the importance of these factors (weight).

The matrix below shows the results calculated by multiplying the score by each factor’s weight and summing the results. A percentage can be calculated by dividing the interviewee’s score by the total possible points. The score can be used to rank the interviewees. The “% Score” column indicates the relative gap in scoring between two numbers, allowing the evaluators to determine if the “score” between two alternatives is significantly different.


Candidate #2 stands out from the others, but results for #1, #4 and #5 are very close. The selection team now must review each one in context and decide which candidates to retain for the final selection.



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