The Goal Tree is a simple looking tool, great for focusing on the purpose or Goal and aligning all contributions toward the organization’s goal. As often with simple looking tools, its principle is simple but its construction and use can be tricky.
How to get from Goal Tree to a concrete action plan is one of these possible difficulties.
Many Goal Trees can grow wide and tall, especially when beginners go into many details of Necessary Conditions (NCs) without trimming out the trivialities. Once this kind of Tree built, what to do with all those NCs?
This article was first posted in May 2014 and partly rewritten and updated in December 2018
From Goal Tree to action plan
First remember that a Goal Tree is a roadmap to achieving the Goal and Necessary Conditions are prerequisites to higher Necessary Conditions until reaching the Goal. They can also be called Intermediate Objectives. In fact, the Goal Tree derives from another logic tree known as IO Map or Intermediate Objectives Map.
In many cases when defining the roadmap to achieving the Goal, many prerequisites are simply missing or unstable. This is often the case with strategic Goal Trees, when using a Goal Tree for a startup business or when using a Goal Tree as a rough WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) to plan a project.
Please note that the proposed way here uses the Goal Tree in isolation and not as the starting point of the Logical Thinking Process. In this latter case for solving complex problems, the 3-color code and shortcut from Goal Tree to action plan is not advised.
In order to get clarity on how to go from a Goal Tree to an action plan, my proposal is to make all Necessary Conditions statuses visible by using the 3-color system using the Green / Amber / Red color code:
- Green means ok: condition or intermediate objective permanently achieved and under control
- Amber is to be improved or stabilized, e.g. objective not permanently under control
- Red is not ok, missing or far from fulfilling the objective
Watch me explain in this video:
Once the statuses are made visible, the priorities become obvious: the overall objective is to green-up the tree and this must be done bottom-up. Therefore:
- Ignore the Greens, they’re already ok
- Turn Ambers into Greens
- Turn Reds into Greens, into Amber first if gap is too wide
- Always start at the bottom, with the lowest NCs in a given branch
- If overwhelmed with too many Ambers and Reds, select those leading to an urgent Critical Success Factor to satisfy and focus on greening up this branch first.
Using A3 reports
For each item you choose to work on, fill the action plan. If the prerequisite to install or the Necessary Condition to achieve is a problem to solve, and this problem has some complexity, you may use an >A3 report< to structure the problem solving, prior to filling the action plan.
Once problem solved and solution sustainably proven, adjust the box’s status and color.
Iterate with next priorities.
When the tree is all green, you’re done!