Critical success factors

It has been close to two weeks since the, the Golden-class container ship, the EverGiven, which ran aground in the Suez canal has been re-floated. The Suez canal is back to normal traffic operations. While the EverGiven and her crew remain in Egypt’s Great Bitter lake, the conditions for her release are still being spoken about. Egypt’s bill of compensation, is likely to be in the range of USD 1 billion, and is expected to be itemised as costs incurred to free the ship (towing and dredging) and loss of income from tolls on other vessels that use the canal. The missed transit fees alone are estimated to be USD 95 million. The nearly week long blockage threatened to bring close to 60% of global traffic commerce to its knees, and throw container shipping schedules off the books for months to come.

While the situation has brought to light the reliance on shipping traffic and commerce to one canal of water, it is important to look at the traction it has gained to actually be of value. The Suez canal has a set of factors that contribute to its importance and effect on global trade, while the study of these factors actually led to building the canal, its value is derived from the regimented usage and control of the Suez canal authority.

In the year 1961, D. Ronald Daniel a top senior partner and director at McKinsey & Company, introduced a concept of success factors as part of management strategy. This then led to the evolution of critical success factors which by definition is “a management term for an element that is necessary for an organisation or project to achieve its mission. To achieve their goals they need to be aware of each key success factor (KSF) and the variations between the keys and the different roles key result area (KRA).”

One of the things that I set out to formulate with X-Axis, is the attempt to understand and develop frameworks for the function of communication within a corporate setup and draw parallels to management and crisis management practices. So here goes the bridge between Critical Success Factors, Key Result Area and the very function of corporate communication. An area that has always drawn attention is the measurement or rather quantification of the impact of communication, and this leads to an interesting concept, that of the criteria of success. These criteria, within the context of communication, are outcomes or achievements of an activity undertaken by the function of corporate communication. Most importantly these success criteria are defined with the objectives and can be quantified by key performance indicators (KPIs).

A simplified version of a framework looks a bit like this

This five sided imagery is to bring a co-relation for a CSF build-up between elements that form the foundation of a communication plan.

  1. The primary aspect of a communication plan is its transparency, one that clearly defines the goals, role and the intended impact.
  2. Processes highlights and defines the competencies and the methodologies
  3. People forms the bedrock with the corporate structure to define the team and the organisational commitment a tandem working of which provides both control and transparency
  4. The contingency forms a strategy that evaluates and forms indicators for measuring risk and vulnerability assessments in terms of both efficacy and efficiency.

In a way, the CSF pull together multiple frameworks to provide a tangible methodology to identify and largely quantify both the criteria and critical elements that are required to bring about a viable solution for success. A case in point is the Suez canal, the factors that make it important are many, but it is in the astute management of the factors that provide a leadership position. While the geographic location is unparalleled, it does require a firm set of frameworks to be a viable solution for use as a shipping route. This is an analogy that I see very closely related to the function of corporate communication.

While the function of communication does not lend itself to rigorous statistical analysis, the identification of the criteria require an in-depth analysis. A summation of the case points for identification of both the criteria and success factors can include:

What or factors are likely to impact the desired communication outcome?

Is quantification of past data available for statistical analysis?

What changes in behaviour must occur to create the desired outcomes?

What conditions must exist or change to enable the desired outcomes?

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Amit Paul
With over two decades of diverse experience, Amit has worked closely with corporates, industry houses, academies and institutions helping them bridge the learning divide and implementing management solutions, focussing on the geographies of the Middle East and the ASEAN region.
Currently he is the Principal Consultant at NAC Singapore, and works on the confluence of technology and safe living focussing on building safe and smart cities.

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