10 CSFs for the KPIs

Now for the tough part. You need critical success factors to be able to achieve key performance indicators, and to be able to measure them meaningfully.


IT LOOKS like key performance indicators (KPIs) are all the rage now. This quest for quantifiable targets by which work will be assessed has expanded now from the corporate sector (we are in the middle of one in our office at the moment) to the Government.

It seems to be the panacea for all manner of ills – set a target and a time line and you will be able to assess how well the work gets done. But in practice it is not as easy as all that – you need to have certain things to get to your targets. Sometimes without these it will be impossible to achieve your targets.

In management speak, these are known as critical success factors or CSFs. The term is pretty much self-explanatory and I am surprised at how little talk there are of these in relation to achieving KPIs.

In fact, many KPIs cannot be achieved without CSFs – you need to put in place people and processes to achieve KPIs.

That’s not the only issue with KPIs, especially when it comes to qualitative matters. Does for instance a 20% reduction in street crime – a recently announced government KPI – equate to an overall reduction of crime? No, although it’s a starting point.

And who gathers the statistics for street crime? And how sure are we that we can rely on them?

Let’s take another government KPI – ensure all normal pupils are able to read, write and count when they enter Year Four before 2012. What is the test that is going to measure this? What’s the score for the pupils now?

Especially for the Government, there are serious problems in measurement of KPI. This is not to say that KPIs must not be set.

But to emphasise two things. First, KPIs must be properly measured to indicate the start point, and set a target; and they must be independently measured.

Second, setting of KPI targets by themselves is not enough – it is crucial to identify the CSFs necessary to achieve the KPIs and to provide them. We must ensure that everything is done to enable the targets to be met.

Here are 10 CSFs we think are necessary for the KPIs in the key result areas to be achieved. They focus on the six identified by the Government: widening access to affordable and quality education, reduction of the crime rate, combating corruption, raising the living standard of the poor, improving infrastructure in rural areas and improving public transport in the medium term.

1. Better teachers and headmasters. Teaching starts with teachers, and headmasters oversee teachers. We need the heads to be right so that the teachers are right, too and to ensure the right kind of people get into teaching.

That means rewarding rightly, too. That’s a really big task, but we had better start now.

2. Depoliticising education. Flip-flop decisions and politicising important ones which require clear thinking seriously undermine efforts to raise education to high, international standards.

Paramount should be the welfare of the students and the eventual contribution they can make to the country.

3. Better policemen. Reducing crime starts with better policeman, and if the need for it is established, more policemen.

Much can be done with the same group of people with better leadership, clear goals, retraining, new attitudes and the will to do better.

4. Improved civic consciousness. Crime is always too difficult and big to handle by the police without civic participation.

The public needs to play a greater part in being the eyes and ears of the police, and the police should do everything to facilitate the process.

5. Citizen’s participation in policing. Citizen participation takes the form of Rela and Rukun Tetangga and if organised properly can be major deterrents to crime while at the same time increase civic consciousness among the general populace.

6. An independent commission to monitor law enforcement. Law enforcement agencies will not admit to their shortcomings. That is why we need a totally independent commission to monitor and oversee their behaviour and to recommend ways to revamp them from time to time.

7. A firm stance against corruption at all levels. The signs of corruption are there for everyone to see. Those can easily be the starting point of investigations instead of waiting for reports to be made.

If there is no investigation of corruption at the top, then corruption will simply continue to prevail.

8. Ensuring fair wages. One of the key ways of reducing poverty is to ensure fair wages. If we keep on importing cheap labour from impoverished countries we are going to continue to impoverish the poorer people among us, most of who will be in the labour class.

We have to restrict the import of cheap labour and ensure fair wages for workers, perhaps through a wages council.

9. Efficient infrastructure spending. If we want more infrastructure in the rural areas, we need to get more done for the same amount of money.

That means much more oversight of spending and ensuring that contracts are reasonably priced. Competitive bidding is one way of doing this but there needs to be constant monitoring without any bias.

10. Making public transport cheap and efficient. Public transport does not make money anywhere. If more people are to use public transport, it must be efficient, reach the right places, have proper feeder services and be cheap at the same time.

Many people take cars and bikes simply because public transport does not go where they need to.

These are just some CSFs and there are probably more, which goes to show that at the end of the day we have to come down back to the basics.

Using management techniques never runs away from the basics – in fact it involves their clearer identification. We need to go back to basics.

> Managing editor P. Gunasegaram says that when we cover our bases, it is not necessary to cover our backs.