The 3-colors system is a well accepted assessment and visual management tool by Goal Tree builders and users. The principle is simple as it uses the traditional Red-Amber-Green color code to indicate the status of each entity in the Tree.
In a Goal Tree, Necessary Conditions are enablers to the above entity. As soon as enablers are not in place or “unstable”, the outcome they should enable cannot be considered as in place, delivering or achieved.
In this post, I detail how to color a Goal Tree.
- If you are not yet familiar with this logical tool called a Goal Tree, you should start with my post: What is a Goal Tree?
- If you want a primer on the Goal Tree 3-colors system, you may read: 3-color system for Goal Trees
How to color a Goal Tree?
Start at the bottom, with the very basic Necessary Conditions. Have the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) assess each Necessary Condition for its status. As soon as a basic Necessary Condition, which is a requirement or prerequisite to the above entity to exist, is Amber or Red, the above entity can only be Amber or Red. The color, symbol for the status, propagates upwards like in a line of dominos when the falling one pushes the next.
Reminder: in “my” 3 color system, green stands for granted, constantly available, steady… Amber means unstable, not totally fulfilled, variable… Red means missing, non-existent, not at nominal value, etc.
Therefore, the assessment can be quite quick. The SMEs should know what’s going on on shopfloor, how process behave and deliver. Key Performance Indicators (KPI) may give additional information.
In a starting project, chances are that many identified basic requirements are not yet fulfilled, so their boxes in the Goal Tree are red. As soon as such an entity turns Amber or Red, no need to assess the above related entities, they are Amber or Red by definition.
Related: Goal Tree: How green is your tree?
The requirements that are Green need to be followed upwards nevertheless to see if their above related entities are Green as well, or if an additional Necessary Condition coming in sideways has a non-Green status. If this is the case, the above entity takes the color of the worst of the underlying Necessary Conditions’ color.
The limits of the 3-color system
It can happen that despite an entity having all its underlying Necessary Conditions set to Green can’t be assessed as Green. Facts and figures just don’t allow it. How come?
Well, remember: underlying Necessary Conditions are enablers, not triggers. Unlikely what happens with sufficiency logic where a cause is literally sufficient to produce the effect, the necessity logic used in the Goal Tree states that if a Necessary Condition is missing, the expected effect can not happen, but conversely, the underlying Necessary Condition existence is only enabling the effect to happen.
Entities in a Goal Tree are also called Intermediate Objectives and in order to achieve an objective, 3 conditions are required: having the necessary means to achieve the objective, knowing how to achieve it and being motivated to achieve it.
In case a should-be green Intermediate Objectives isn’t green, you should check the Means, Method and Motivation.
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