Goal Tree: Why must top management define the Critical Success Factors?

Top managers discovering the Goal Tree frequently ask what input they must give and how “deep” they should commit themselves, where is the point of handover to lower ranking managers?

In this article I remind some basics about the Goal Tree as well as the necessity for top management to define the Critical Success Factors.

Some Goal Tree basics

It is the owner’s prerogative to define the Goal of the organization they purposely created. The organization’s top management takes over by delegation and has to lead it toward the achievement of this Goal.

Yet many ways may lead to the Goal but all of them are not desirable and some of them are not consistent with the organization’s values, adrift from the core business or core competences. Therefore, in my opinion top management must define/recall the organization’s’ Goal as well as the few Critical Success Factors, which make the very top of the Goal Tree.

A quick reminder about Critical Success Factors

Critical Success Factors are the few very important objectives that have to be achieved just before achieving the goal.

The Goal Tree is built upon  necessity logic. To read more about necessity logic click here.

Critical Success Factors should be expressed in measurable units in order to serve as the high level objectives and KPIs altogether.

These targets must be set in accordance with the Goal and as long as these targets are not achieved, the Goal cannot be achieved.

Critical Success Factors are therefore top management’s dashboard, the few KPIs to watch in order to see if the organization is getting closer to its Goal or drifting away from it.

Direction, values and culture

Critical Success Factors are also giving direction because for achieving them it is necessary to roll out specific actions and ensure specific Necessary Conditions are sustainably fulfilled.

Setting the Critical Success Factors will constrain the lower structure of the Goal Tree, which is a network of nested Necessary Conditions. Thus giving clear directions on what to work on in order to achieve the Critical Success Factors and ultimately the Goal.

Conversely, not setting the Critical Success Factors would let all options open including those hurting the core values or taking the organization away from its core competences and what makes a corporate culture.

Furthermore, letting lower rankings set the Critical Success Factors would be equivalent to let the tool choose its work.

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3 thoughts on “Goal Tree: Why must top management define the Critical Success Factors?

  1. Chris, I’ve found your blog posts very helpful in understanding TOC (my main other source of learning being Dettmer’s Thinking Process book). I was wondering if you have any thoughts on the Strategy and Tactics Tree, which I’ve seen mentioned in various places on the web but not many detailed examples. Is it something that you use in your work at all?


    • Hi Tobias,
      Thank you for your kind comment. I discovered the S&T tree after the Goal Tree and at first thought they serve the same purpose, but they don’t. I was soon discouraged to go through studying S&T further as it appeared complicated, cumbersome and I could not see where it leads except having a very detailed documented case. I understand S&T as such: a detailed wrap-up.
      I don’t use it. The testimony of a company who gave it a try was something like 2 years of work for several dozen of pages of S&T, lot of confusion, discouragement and absolutely no operational result. They switched to Goal Tree and got actionable insight in a matter of days (weeks?).
      Now, I may not have gotten all the value of S&T, so I keep open minded about it.


  2. Thanks Chris, that’s helpful to hear your experience and that of the company you spoke with! S&T does indeed seem cumbersome compared to the Goal Tree. The GT I can show to a friend or colleague and they intuitively understand it immediately.


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