What is a Goal Tree?

A Goal Tree, sometimes still referred to as Intermediate Objective Map or IO Map, is primarily a Logical Thinking Process tool, itself linked to the Theory of Constraints. The top of the tree is a strategic planning tool while going down to its bottom links strategy to operations.

Bandeau_CH2The very top of the tree holds the Goal, the purpose, the vision. A unique box holds the concise mission statement. On the next level, three to maximum five Critical Success Factors (CSF) are top objectives that are mandatory to achieve in order to achieve the Goal.

Under each CSF a variable number of Necessary Conditions (NCs) are found. As for the Goal with CSF, NCs are conditions that must be fulfilled in order to achieve the CSF. NCs may then flourish to the details, each upper level NC being conditioned by lower level NCs, and so on.

A Goal Tree is built on necessity logic-based relationship that reads “in order to have…(upper objective) we must have…(lower condition)”, thus building a Goal Tree is straightforward.

Experience soon tells that Critical Success Factors (CSF) must be limited to five maximum (in my opinion). One reason is for top management to keep overview with a limited set of really Critical Factors. If achieving the goal is related to a vast number of CSF, the goal might not be well stated or the venture likely to fail.

The second reason is that it’s easy to mismatch a Necessary Condition with a CSF. Therefore, keeping the number of CSF very limited forces the tree builders to check carefully every box.

Further explanations about building a Goal Tree can be found in William Dettmer’s publications, in Bob Sproull & Bruce Nelson’s book Epiphanized or on Bob Sproull’s Blog.

Once built, the Goal Tree has a triple function:

  1. A Logical Future State Map
  2. An actual situation Map
  3. A road Map

While depicting the Future State is the prime usage of the Goal Tree, depicting on the same Tree the actual situation is a personal interpretation, probably shared with many of those exposed to the Goal Tree.

Once the Tree completed, it is meaningful to color each box with the three Green / Amber / Red color according the completion and mastery of the box content.

Example: if one necessary condition states “we must keep our Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) over 80%” and the actual performance is only 65% at best, the box should be colored Red. If OEE is in the 75-80% range, the box may turn Amber. Once steadily over 80%, it turns Green.

This color code is immediately understandable and makes the Goal Tree fit for visual management.

The color rule states that an upper box takes the color of the worst case of Necessary Conditions underneath. If one NC is Amber, the upper level is Amber, if one NC is Red, the upper level turns Red.

The color code makes the Goal Tree a roadmap as Amber and Red boxes are to be turned Green, a way to focus the efforts and limited resources to the spots to improve mandatorily, consistently with Theory of Constraints precepts.

Over time, the colors on the Goal Tree should be changed according to improvements and issues solving. The Goal Tree used in such a matter finds its place in the Obeya or Operations Room.

>Read also Goal Tree as vehicle for change management


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