It is silly obvious but didn’t occur to me until I faced it: building a Goal Tree is NOT mapping the current processes, a Goal Tree is NOT made to depict the current reality!
It happened while I tried to promote the Goal Tree as a tool to reengineer a process. Nothing very complicated but a challenge to get the attendants to think out of the box and redefine a much better performing process.
Not being familiar with the actual process to be improved, I clung to the methodology: wrote the Goal on top of a large paper sheet and invited the attendants to build the Tree using the necessity logic.
So we went. I asked “in order to … we must….” and the participants gave answer after answer.
The Tree that was growing was logically sound, but at some point we realized the group wasn’t building an improved process but mapping the actual one!
While I was somewhat embarrassed for letting myself trapped, I picked some useful takeaways:
Be very specific when verbalizing the Goal.
When it comes to reengineer an existing process, the facilitator can help verbalizing the (limited) Goal. This should be done with great care in order to avoid ambiguity and misunderstandings as well as for leading the participants to think properly about the possible new process.
Refrain from depicting the current reality
This warning goes to both the facilitator and the participants. A Goal Tree is a means to list all the Necessary Conditions that must be fulfilled in a sequential order so that the Goal can be achieved.
The underlying assumption is that the current process fails to achieve the Goal and therefore a new approach has to be found. Mapping the current process is not likely to bring the group very far and chances are that minor changes (e.g. incremental improvement) on the current process will not suffice to achieve the Goal.
Building a Goal Tree is not a brainstorming which is way too open, but a necessity-logic driven investigation about what is strictly necessary to achieve step-by-step, in order to achieve the Goal.
Going through the exercise of building the Tree from scratch should open new perspectives and filter-out the resource-consuming but not contributing nice-to-haves.
A perfectly logical tree is not enough
A logically sound Goal Tree is not necessarily a good/appropriate tree. Just as it happened with the group who inspired this post, if the group builds a Goal Tree which is a mapping of the current reality, it may be logically flawless but still remain ineffective.