Goal tree chronicles – The pharma plant

Author, Chris HOHMANN

Years ago, long before I knew about Goal Trees, we got an assignment in a major pharma plant.

We were hired to help ops teams to improve throughput and efficiency, one of a 20+ streams project. Indeed, plant’s top management worked out a strategic plan for the three next years, containing more than twenty “strategic goals”.

Common sense (misnamed for it is far from common) tells that if a business is dependent on so many very important goals, it is either a startup or likely to fail! The same common sense tells that probably there is some exaggeration about the ‘strategic’ status of some of them.

Coming much too late (and after a strategy consultant), there was no way to influence the project that had already been started and publicized. Furthermore it was only because ops could not deliver that we’ve been called for help. We just witnessed the project management.

And it was the case. As you can imagine, the 20+ list of strategic goals was made of a mixture of:

  • really needed breakthroughs, Critical Success Factors, as I will discover later
  • Necessary Conditions, which as their name tells are conditions necessary to achieve some objective
  • restoring some basics, or put bluntly, solve problems and drifts that should never had happen
  • and nice-to-haves, or some managers’ wishes and local objectives.

As a consequence of such a rich collection of “strategic goals”, monthly project reviews tried to review about 10 streams in one hour, which left a few minutes to display a synthetic slide about progress so far, the next steps and roadblocks for each stream.

Those meetings were seated, with an audience varying from six to twenty attendants, bringing their laptops and smartphones. Why some of them were in a room was a mystery. I made my own conclusion: if you want to be considered as a manager, you must behave like a manager. That means spending lot of time in meetings. Any meetings.

Few presenters were gifted with summarizing and getting-right-to-the-point skills. Adding to the boredom. Few attendants could refrain from texting, emailing or else during the review. Thus no meeting would finish on time nor address all agenda’s points. Next meetings started later and top managers got home late every night.

It was common that meetings scheduled in the late afternoon just got cancelled without prior notice, even all of them were of high importance and top priority.

The CEO, gentle mannered and kind man, lacked the authority to keep meetings on track and his staff focused. To me he looked like an apprentice juggler trying to keep his 20+ ‘strategic’ balls in the air. Invariably a large number of them ended on the floor and despite all of them were vital, those on the ground could lay there for a while before being picked up again.

Now familiar with Goal Trees, I can mentally replay the story and structure it for better outcome with much less hassle.


Top management would first be invited to state the Goal and the few top objectives or Critical Success Factors, limited to five (my advice).
From these few real and carefully picked Critical Success Factors, the top management than would define the first upper rows of Necessary Conditions (NCs). Each of them would have to pass the test of the logical “for achieving… we need…”. Any candidate condition not withstanding this test would have to be discarded.

Once the top of the Goal Tree drawn and checked, top managers would turn to their staff and continue the Necessary Conditions inventory down to ops level.

Goal Tree

Goal Tree

Next step would be an ‘as-is’ assessment for each NC using the Green/Amber/Red color code I described in another post. Turning Amber and Red NCs into Green ones then become staff’s objective.

The CEO and the top managers keep monitoring CSFs and top most NCs, the rest is lower level managers’ job. A half hour meeting monthly is than enough to check progress, while the NCs greenwashing is to be checked weekly or even daily in small groups.

Related: Where I could have used a Goal Tree but didn’t know about the tool then (including video)

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn About the author, Chris HOHMANN

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