Goal Tree Chronicles – Where to start when almost all Prerequisites are missing?

It happens almost every time, I facilitate the building of a Goal Tree, bring the group of Tree builders to build the Tree which is the roadmap and benchmark altogether for reaching the organization’s Goal, and when we color this Tree to assess where the organization currently stands, the Goal Tree is depressingly amber and red.

The usual question is then: where do we start to improve? The number of missing or failing prerequisites (the reds) or the unsteady ones (the amber) is just overwhelming.

Note: The approach proposed here assumes that the Goal Tree is used as a stand-alone Tree and the aim is to identify the failing and missing Prerequisites (Necessary Conditions) to achieve the Goal. The system may not suffer from a complex problem requiring the Logical Thinking Process to be used in greater extend.

For instance, in the case that inspired this post, the purpose of the Goal Tree is to list all Conditions Necessary to bring the new facility to operate at nominal pace.

The 3-color approach is NOT recommended when trying to surface and eliminate Critical Root Causes. For that, the top of the Goal Tree is used as inputs to then next Logical Thinking Process tools.

Reminders about greening a Goal Tree

First let me remind readers that a Goal Tree must be greened-up starting from the bottom. Greening the Tree means turn the status of the amber and red Necessary Conditions (NCs) to green, in other words insure that these NCs are always fulfilled.

It is either implementing something that is identified as necessary but missing. This can be achieved through buying, investing, hiring, training, etc. Or it is putting some prerequisite under control so that it is always available and in the desired state, without variations.

The Necessary Conditions that lay down in the Tree are prerequisites for achieving the Necessary Conditions (AKA Intermediate Objectives) that are above and logically linked to them. So the first answer is look at the bottom of the Tree and go for greening the red and amber from there.

But still looking at the bottom of the Tree may offer to many choices and leave people puzzled about the priorities.

The pragmatic approach

1 – In order to get clarity about priorities, one pragmatic approach is to select the quick and easy actions that can improve – green up – the Tree. This is fine when looking for quick successes in order to keep teams motivated. Yet, when starting like that, it’s best to follow the thread and green the whole branch bottom-up. Do not improve here and there in order to have green spots on your tree, this would probably fail in the long term.

It’s not my preferred way.

2 – Another one (my preferred one) is to select relevant priorities by looking up to the Critical Success Factors (CSFs). They should be amber or red as well. Select the one that should be turned green the soonest in order to improve business quickly.

Critical Success Factors are by definition a kind of summary of all underlying NCs. Therefore, aiming to green up a CSF gives priority about wich NCs to turn green first.

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn

2 thoughts on “Goal Tree Chronicles – Where to start when almost all Prerequisites are missing?

  1. Hi Chris
    I agree with your approach about the colour system, but let us remind that this is one of the ways to do improvements – and if you have small number of reds its easy or you choose to go by the CSF as you mentioned, or you choose another creative way…
    But I prefer the hard way which is to build the tree and from this tree to define the Gaps between what should be the organization (caracterized exactly by this tree and by the seqence Goal, CSF, NC) and what presently is.
    Those Gaps are the UDE that we can find related to the Goal to the CSF or to the NC !!
    And from the UDE list that is determined in the same meeting and by the same people who defined the Goal tree we can do latter the rest, the CRT to go to the core problem or to the Critical Root Causes.
    Now we know the priorities, this ways there are no subjective paths but only one way
    Takes more time – Yes
    Has more work . Yes
    But its much much clear from my point of view.
    So we must not go allways through the easiest path but the Goal Tree can show us also the way – this way.


    • Hi Luis,

      Thank you for your feedback and your scrutinizing, pointing out (indirectly) that I failed to share the assumption for using the Goal Tree in this stand alone and assessment-oriented way.
      I will post an update soon.


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