Goal Tree chronicles – What are our CSF?

In this company the CEO had a clear statement of the Goal, already communicated about it but asked us to align all the organization and get momentum for action.

The middle management had long be enjoying cosy situation and the perspective of a change was not that welcome.

I strongly recommended to use the Goal Tree to demonstrate:

  • What was needed to achieve the Goal that all the required adjustments and changes were dictated by the circumstances
  • The actual organization was not fit for the coming challenge
  • What has logically to be changed

With the Goal well defined, selecting the Critical Success Factors (CSF) was the next step.

Gathering the executive committee, I explained the Goal Tree principle and structure as well as the way we were going to use it to back up the transformation, set priorities and communicate about progress.

Confident smiles answered my question if everything was clear and if the audience ready to give me five CSFs.

Goal Tree

Goal Tree

The next two hours yielded only one CSF correctly stated. No more smiles but concerned faces.

What happened was a common in this exercise:

  • Some executives were reluctant to set a specific and measurable objective, fearing they had to stand for it later.
  • Others were just arguing about everything: lacking benchmarks, proposed benchmarks, this or that, the whole catalogue of Kotter’s 24 attacks.
  • Some had simply no idea or no intention to share them

When there was no reservation about the exercise or the proposed CSF, the usual mismatching between CSF and Necessary Conditions occurred.

Demoting proposed CSF down to NCs is sometimes difficult to understand, and for some people difficult to accept, yet we needed a robust Goal Tree to build our demonstration and manage our project.

The CEO praised the stress test and my systematic challenging questions as he understood the importance of the outcome.

Finally we agreed for another meeting, as the allotted two hours showed that executive committee was not that prepared for the project.

What does this story tell us?

  1. top management often launch projects without thorough preparation, which leads to unclear objectives and fuzzy communication
  2. even a simple looking tool like a Goal Tree can be tricky
  3. first ideas about CSF are seldom robust nor well stated

Building a Goal Tree is not simply sorting and arranging the ideas form a brainstorm, it is a logical analysis of what is required to achieve the Goal. To keep the Goal Tree Lean, all the statements (Goal, CSFs and NCs) have to be very specific and clear.

This post is part of the Goal Tree chronicles series

Chris HOHMANN View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn

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