Goal Tree Chronicles – from Goal to action plan in a couple of hours


Chris HOHMANN – Author

In a previous post I described the utilisation of a Goal Tree to order ideas when working on a small project, a part of a project or an improvement plan.
In another post I gave answer to the question “is it worth the time and energy invested?”.

In this post I share my own benchmarks about time required to build a Tree.

1. Limited scope

Let’s begin with the “order the ideas” case.

When building a Goal Tree for such a limited scope, it takes a couple of hours from scratch to action plan. The action plan will contain a dozen actions and the Tree have about thirty entities.

Is it worth it?

One may question if building a Goal Tree for such a limited scope makes sense?

Yes it does. The Tree is not only a fine way to order ideas, it helps having a sound and robust series of Necessary Conditions (read requirements) without Nice-to-haves that would certainly add costs but not always more throughput.

A Goal Tree is also a very good communication tool.

People involved building Trees and Tree owners get usually good at telling the story and selling the Necessary actions to undertake, even they’re not used to present summaries and reports to any audience.

Henceforth, a Goal Tree is a collection of benchmarks, and if using my suggested color coding system, a convenient assessment tool. These benchmarks remain valid for a certain time.

So is it worth investing a couple of hours to get all of these? Yes it is. At least if communication and benchmarking is meant to be used.

2. Defining strategy

What about a broader scope, like setting up a strategic plan for mid or long term?

For such a broader scope the need for a longer time to build a Tree makes sense and it’s a bit more difficult to give an indication of required time. Depending upon the initial alignment of executives, discussion about the Goal and/or Critical Success Factors (CSFs) can take some time until all agree.

My experience with (French*) executives discovering the Goal Tree tells it can take up to several sessions to get the Goal and CSFs set.

*we French are famous for arguing, resist change and slow to get consensus, aren’t we?

Once this is achieved, I usually recommend to let the next line of managers work out the Necessary Conditions (NCs) and come back to execs with their proposals. If execs are to define the first NCs, it will usually take a little more time than with managers. The higher in the organisation, the more freedom to question everything.

To keep long story short, a strategic tree may take several days to have its top built (Goal and CSFs) in a sound and robust way.

According to the required width and depth of the Tree, additional time is necessary, especially if built in a participative way with subordinates.

Is it worth it?

Yes it is. First the previous arguments with limited scope are still valid with this broader one.

A Goal Tree defining the next years’ strategy is a great communication tool and a way to feed a Hoshin Kanri X matrix for those using it.

Such a Tree may remain valid for an extended period of time: 3 to 5 years, except for faster changing businesses.

So even investing several days to build a lasting Tree providing guidance for decisions and benchmarks is definitively worth it.

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