Goal Tree chronicles – Start with the end in mind

A Goal Tree is a wonderful tool, all based on logical relationships and straightforward. Goal Tree helped me several times to structure projects, set of complex tasks, or consulting assignments. Goal Tree are also great to prevent losing focus, going astray and if necessary to refocus.

Starting from the end

Goal Tree starts with the end: the Goal, what we need/want to achieve.
Next we have to define what high-end outcomes indicate that the Goal is achieved. These outcomes are the Critical Success Factors (CSF). Each CSF is dependent on a number of Necessary Conditions (NCs), each NC is itself dependent on subordinate NCs and so on, thus the tree structure.

Easy losing focus is (Yoda)

Assume being assigned to improve a process or a department’s performance. Without a structured approach aiming a specific Goal, improvement opportunities are literally infinite. Yet every improvement does not contribute to achieving the Goal. The likelihood of going astray and losing focus is important, but your time and resources come in limited numbers. Same for product or software development, fancy features maybe cool but not in line with the final expected outcome.

Passing the necessity test

Each item in the Goal Tree is linked to its subordinate by a necessity condition, “in order to have A, it is (absolutely) necessary to have B”. If a subordinate condition does not comply to this “absolute” necessity condition, it isn’t necessary. This logical necessity condition relationship is a powerful filter to separate the wheat from the chaff , the “nice-to-haves” from the real necessary conditions.


If the Goal Tree wasn’t built prior to action and focus is lost, taking some time building the Tree can save further waste of time and resources. While building the Tree, the necessities become clear and the Goal on top of the Tree is the True North for setting the bearing. The harder the turnaround, the better the lesson, probably pretty bitter as well.

Of course starting with a Goal Tree, that is with the end in mind, is a better option!

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn

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One thought on “Goal Tree chronicles – Start with the end in mind

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