CSF Survey: Introduction & Approach


It’s been known for some years that focusing on a few critical factors - such as clear purpose, visible leadership, engaged stakeholders and effective governance - can significantly enhance a change initiative’s chances of success.  And yet consistently fewer than 50%[1] of initiatives successfully deliver their expected improvements. 

Why is this?  Could it be that people find it hard to deal effectively with all the factors that might contribute to their success?  If so, what can be done to break through the inherent complexity of change and create initiatives which are more likely to succeed?

To explore these questions, earlier this summer we set about surveying professionals from around the world who have experience of shaping and delivering change.  The survey asked them to rank our top ten Critical Success Factors “in order of their importance to the overall success of a change initiative.”

Here, we present the final results, building on the preliminary results published in September.  We have continued to develop the findings into what we hope you will find to be useful insights - and to identify some more questions suggested by where the research has taken us so far.


The core question asked respondents to rank 10 statements, each relating to a critical success factor previously identified from our own experience, together with input from other research, including Kotter[2], and McKinsey[3] amongst others. 

The 10 statements respondents were asked to rank were:

  • A Blueprint and a Roadmap which are value-driven, credible and complete
  • A Business Case and Funding which are robust and realistic
  • A Delivery Process which is established, appropriate and understood
  • Governance arrangements which are focused on outcomes, not just process
  • Leadership which is visible, active and accountable
  • A Plan which is well-defined and integrated
  • A Purpose which responds to a compelling need for change and defines clear outcomes
  • Performance Management which is open, fact-based and focuses on benefit delivery
  • Resources who are sufficient, well-managed and skilled
  • Stakeholders who are actively engaged through effective communication

(Note: the statements were offered to respondents in random order to eliminate any positional bias from the results.)

Respondents were then offered the opportunity to identify another critical success factor and to rank it relative to the original 10 statements. 

Other questions provided demographic information relating to the respondents’ experience, including industry, discipline, working region and sizes of change initiatives.

The survey was conducted using online survey technology.  Respondents were identified and invited to take part through their membership of a number of various professional networking groups on LinkedIn.com. 


[1] CHAOS Survey 2009, Standish Group International Inc.
[2] Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail, John P. Kotter, HBR 1995
[3] Corporate Transformation Under Pressure, Josep Isern, Mary C. Meaney and Sarah Wilson, McKinsey Quarterley, 2009