The fallacy of maturity assessments

Maturity assessments are a kind of qualitative audit during which the current “maturity” of an organization is compared to a maturity reference model and ranked accordingly to its score.

As explained in the wikipedia article about maturity model (, the implementation is either top-down or bottom-up, but from my experience it is mostly top-down. The desired maturity score is set by the corporate top management in its desire to bring the organization to a minimum level of maturity about… Lean, Supply Chain practices, project management, digital… you name it.

The maturity assessment is usually quite simple: a questionnaire guides the assessment, each maturity level being characterized by a set of requirements. It is close to an audit.

The outcome of such an assessment is usually a graphic summary displaying the maturity profile or a radar chart, comments about the weak points / poor scores and maybe some recommendation for improvement.

The gap between the current maturity and the desired maturity state is to then to be closed by an action plan or by following a prescribed roadmap.

What’s wrong with maturity models/assessments?

1 – The fallacy of maturity assessments

A maturity assessment would be ok if it would be considered for what it is: a maturity assessment. But the one-dimensional assessment is too often used as a two-dimensional tool by assuming that the level of operational performance is positively correlated to maturity.

In other words: the better the maturity, the better the operational performance.

Indeed, such a correlation can frequently be found, but correlation isn’t causation, which means that there is no mechanical nor systematic link between the maturity and performance level.

Even so the high level of maturity matches a high level of performance and vice-versa, there is no guarantee that performance will raise if maturity is raised.

Furthermore, studies have shown that there are exceptions and organizations with low maturity perform better than some high maturity ones. You may be interested reading my post How lean are you part 2, about Awareness / performance matrix about this subject.

Therefore the belief in the positive correlation between maturity and performance that makes it a kind of law is flawed or is nothing more than wishful thinking.

Many organizations boast about their high maturity, the number of kaizen events, number of workshops, number of colored belts, the number of training sessions or worker’s suggestions but there is nothing impressive to be noticed on the gemba.

Now I can understand why most managers and improvement champions like the sole maturity assessment:

  • it is much easier to do
  • the assessment items can be common to very different units with different activities
  • the general roadmap and global target are easy to set
  • maturity objectives are qualitative

On the other hand:

  • measuring overall performance that can be compared can be more tricky, especially in an organization with several different core businesses
  • it is annoying to admit that all efforts to raise maturity are not paying-off in terms of performance and painful to explain why

2 – The one-fits all maturity targets

Another problem with maturity assessment is that some corporations dictate a minimum maturity level regardless to local realities.

That’s how some subsidiaries doing well with regards to performance get bad maturity scores because they do not apply SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die, an approach to reduce the changeover duration). The point is these subsidiaries have more or less continuous production processes with huge batch sizes that barely change. Why would they go for SMED when they don’t need it? The same case can be told with one-piece flow or heijunka (load levelling) enacted as a must do.

Others are scoring poor because they didn’t Value Stream Map (VSM) their processes. The fact is that those units had no problems a VSM could help to solve. The example list can go on and probably, dear reader, you have faced such situations yourself (leave your testimony in the comments..!)

3 – Doing it to be compliant, not because it makes sense

This third point is a corollary to the previous one. Because the objectives have been set at higher level and in order to be compliant, most unit manager will pay lip service to the dictated targets, get the scores good enough and be left alone once the assessment is done.

The local staff recognizes the nonsense of the demanded score, yet goes for the least effort and instead of fighting against the extra unnecessary work, chose to display what top management wants.

This the typical “tell me how you’re measured, I tell you how you behave” syndrome inducing counterproductive behaviors or practices.

While top management will be pleased with the scores enforcing its flawed belief, the local units managers did not embrace at all the practices, tools or methods prescribed. They only camouflaged the reality.

Wrapping up

Maturity assessment are not a bad thing per se, but their practicality and simplicity are often misused to assess more than just maturity (or awareness). This is most often misleading because of the false underlying assumptions and promoting wrong behaviors and practices.

PS: You may be interested to read Michel Baudin’s comments on his own blog about this post:

View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn


If at least two tell the same


Chris HOHMANN – Author

This post is a kind of extension to the previous “Solve problems with few, messy data” in which I exposed ways to overcome the lack of solid and sufficient data to start solving problems and improve.

I faced such a case with few, messy and incomplete data where I managed to gather some bits out of different sources. When checking for correlations and pattern similarity, some data from different sources were convergent while others contradict one another.

Instead of losing time searching for the causes of these confirmations / contradictions, Philip (Marris) suggested the simple rule of thumb: if at least two sources tell the same, the information or data is assumed valid, if not we assume the information not trustworthy.

The rationale behind this rule goes back to redundant systems, designed to provide valid information even one of its subsystem fails.

In our case the rule may not withstand a thorough robustness check, but is good enough to allow quick decision with imperfect information.

What’s important during time-constraint process assessments, diagnoses or performance audits or even problem solving is not so much accuracy than sound logic to get things going.
Approximately right is better than precisely false.

Bandeau_CH11View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn

Goal Tree: is it worth it?

Depending the methodology, building a Goal Tree requires some time and attention from top management. The one I am thinking of is typically a two to two and half day seminar (when led by an expert). Therefore the Chiefs often hesitate to invest this time as they are already overbooked and question the necessity of the exercise: is it really worth it?

Yes, it definitely is!

It is worth to invest the necessary time to re (state), refine of review the Goal, define the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) to achieve the Goal and at least the first layers of Necessary Conditions (NCs), to achieve the CSFs.

It is worth because such a Goal Tree remains valid even if top managers leave, because it is tied to business fundamentals and not to someone’s “strategy”. Much of what a Goal Tree describes will remain valid, even if people in charge change.

Yes it is worth to invest time to set the benchmarks (CSFs and NCs), as they will remain valid over a period of time, because they are business fundamentals. World expert and father of the Goal Tree Bill Dettmer uses to say “Goal Tree well built remains valid until the business environment changes or the way the organization is doing business changes significantly“. Furthermore, compared to actual performance, these benchmarks will help to define the roadmap for improvements.

With these elements, the subordinates will know onto what to align their improvement efforts and get tangible and measurable ROI instead of sprinkling “improvements” here and there with sole measurable parameter being the cost of efforts spent.

Yes it is worth the C-suite invest some of its time to provide subordinates a sound vision, a clear Goal and direction about how everyone in the organization can contribute achieving the Goal.

It is especially worth when compared with the time spent in useless meetings and daily firefighting. Firefighting makes feel important and active, but in reality it is more gesticulation than action.

Aligning people’s daily efforts on meaningful targets will solve some problems and reduce the need for firefighting.

Alas, many world-saving managers don’t like this kind of wise and humble posture. This is good for old men meditating atop remote mountains, not for business warriors they think they are.

Yes it is worth to invest some time to get a visual management tool to assess progress towards the organization’s Goal, foster, sponsor, realign and refuel improvement programs. It is worth if after building a Goal Tree, the Chiefs use it for periodical review and self assessment.

An additional latter post discusses the ‘is it worth’ question: Goal Tree Chronicles – from Goal to action plan in a couple of hours

Bandeau_CH36If you like this post, share it!

View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn

What is VSM good for?

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is one of the most popular tool of the Lean toolbox, frequently associated with finding improvement opportunities. Yet VSM is more than a kind of treasure map.

>Lisez cet article en français

Enabling “helicopter view”

Drawing a VSM is like getting aboard a chopper and take off to watch the perimeter or process from some distance and height. I like the helicopter metaphor because we can hover over the Value Stream Map at will, focus on a particular zone, fly over the whole, fly back again and so on.
Taking some distance and height let analysts consider a zone, a part of the process or series of  operations in their global context. Even so VSM is schematic, interactions with up and downstream operations as well as information exchange are more visible than on shop floor.
Conversely, VSM doesn’t show the details and cannot replace investigations in situ.

Physical and information flows

VSM is most probably the sole tool allowing the simultaneous view of physical and information flows as well as their interactions.
VSM can reveal the hidden complexity and abundance of IT systems, softwares and applications, files and databases, often duplicate, redundant and with multiple input points.
Many wastes clutter information flow, more difficult to make out than those of the physical flow. Something the Value Stream Map shows.

Share the findings

VSM is an excellent mean to share the assessment findings with stakeholders.  I could verify it on numerous occasions; operators know well their work post and its immediate surrounding but have little knowledge about what is happening up and downstream. Support departments, especially administrative staff, know very few about operations while ops guys ask themselves what good the administrative staff do.
When working together on a VSM, even only partially, and later during debriefing ,’ all stakeholders share the same ‘picture’ of the actual state, understand  dynamic interactions  and interdependencies between the different links of the whole chain

I could witness people cooling down after understanding why their colleagues kept demanding something bothering. The VSM just made clear why this was important to someone else in the stream. From then on, not only would the irritation disappear, but the angry people change to pro actively help their colleagues, easing the later operations.

Common language

VSM uses symbols (pictograms) and terms which become a common language  between stakeholders. Concepts like flow, Lead Time, Work in Progress or wastes   are understood , even by those remote from shop floor.

When a workgroup is made of several participant without a common tongue – something common in big international corporations with multiple subsidiaries in the whole world, or to consultants assigned to such a subsidiary – thanks to VSM visual symbols, working together with this common language is possible.

Sell one’s ideas

Presenting and debriefing a diagnostic’s results is backed up by a VSM. Together with the future state map, called Value Stream Design (VSD), action plan showing how to get from actual state (VSM) to future state (VSD) it help selling the ideas for a change crafted by the workgroup.

Those receiving the debriefing and proposition, VSM/VSD provide a convenient and useful support to make the whole tangible, concrete.

It happened frequently that our debriefing after assessment was only a standing storytelling in front of a VSM. The whole story is depicted there and it is easy to take the audience in the imaginary helicopter and hover above the process.

A Value Stream Map is therefore a great communication tool.

Revealing wastes

Looking at a process from some distance helps reveal wastes that are not noticeable without zooming out. Duplicate inventories or operations in different locations for instance.
A spaghetti  diagram – natural companion of a VSM – drawn in the same time as the VSM is also an excellent tool / way to reveal wastes like unnecessary transportations, time lost in lengthy walks and motions, routes within the facility, even ‘crowded highways’, etc.

Without VSM’s ability to “zoom out” and consider the process in its whole, most of these wastes would remain hidden.

Decide and coordinate actions

Working together and considering the actual state from some distance greatly helps to take good decisions and coordinate actions which will benefit to the whole instead of trying to optimize locally. This latter way is potentially counterproductive, as interactions and interdependencies do not lead the sum of local optima to a global optimum..

Prevent static figures fooling you

Compared to data / dashboards / KPIs analysis, VSM is more qualitative but depicts the dynamic behavior or a system. Dashboards and reporting are far more static and partial; showing a “frozen picture” of past situations and do not show the dynamics and interdependencies of resources.

VSM is nevertheless completed with figures, indications of actual performance levels or potentials at the moment of mapping. They are benchmarks, either for challenging the actual results or measure progress.


All these advantages and benefits of Value Stream Mapping endorse the place and importance of this tool in the continuous improvement or operational excellence toolbox.
It is probably no surprise for those having experienced Value Stream Mapping, but did they notice all of the advantages?

View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn

Liked it? Share it!


Measurement is the first improvement step

Chris HOHMANNIt’s a kind of magic and it works every time: setup some indicators to measure something and this very something will automatically start improving, without any other action.

Well, it looks a kind of magic but is a very human trait. People pay attention, stick to the rules and behave from the moment they can be spotted not doing it.

Indicators, dashboards, measurement systems are such means used to surface and analyze problems down to their root cause, including behaviors and deviations.

As nobody wants to be singled out as an ugly outlaw, those who did not always stick to the rules or behave, inclined to be messy or sloppy will straighten their behaviors and adjust to the rules.

If they don’t do it wholeheartedly, they do it to avoid (personal) problems.

People generally choose the easiest path; if sticking to the rules and behaving is “easier” than trying to get around, they’ll stick and behave.

Setting up some measurement means keeping an eye on something and as soon as it is known, behaviors change and things improve. I have witnessed this often.

  • Spare parts inventories are not accurate ? Setup measurement of inputs and outputs and by whom or at least when, the latter often being enough to focus on (a group of) individuals, and the inventory will instantly be kept better. Everybody will sign for the parts issued and won’t take more than really needed. Those still “forgetting” to book parts will soon be discovered and they’ll learn it’s faster and easier to book parts than to give explanations to the boss.
  • OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) is low? Set Up a poster with OEE value per shift and the split of productivity losses and OEE will improve without even starting any other action. Most of the time, the first thing team members do (if applies) is stop taking more rest time than allowed. Thus having more run time, OEE improves.

Installing proper measurement is simple and yields quick results. A trick known by seasoned practitioners.


View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn



Checklist for Gemba walks

Can gemba walks be self-taught?

I think so. What it takes basically to go-and-see is a lean thinking, striving-continuously-to-improve mindset.

Yet rookie gemba walkers may not know what to look for or what to pay attention to when walking alone.

When initiation is done with a sensei, the latter may ask questions to his disciple in order to make him/her self discover something and learn to see by him/herself.

But when no sensei is available, how to do?

If the gemba walker is familiar with Value Stream Mapping, he can visit a process and try mentally draw a map, he/she can even sketch it. While drawing the map, he/she can ask him/herself questions e. g. Why this buffer stock? Why that much scrap? And search for the answers.

>lisez-moi en français

Another way to get familiar with gemba walks is to start simply with a limited and focused objective, as for example finding out where material stops flowing smoothly or checking the average hand-offs in production.

Doing this a topic a time helps keeping focused and hones the seeing ability.

I suggest the gemba walkers prepare a list of topics and pick up a new one for each tour. Bedsides a topic list, it would be of some help to prepare a checklist per topic.

For instance if the topic is buffer stocks and WIP, the checklist may hold check points like:

  • Where are the buffer stocks located, in front of what kind of resources?
  • Is its purpose to absorb faster upstream resource output or to protect the downstream resource from shortage?
  • What if the buffer is empty?
  • Conversely what happens if buffer overflows?
  • What is the average value of buffer stock?
  • How long does it last given consumption pace?
  • Is there any signal to show buffer status?

In my book Lean Management, I propose several check-lists for managers going out on gemba walks

Many of these questions will find their answers – good or bad – when asking people in charge.

It is highly recommended to ask systematically for at last two reasons:

  1. prevent jumping on preconceptions but systematically checking for alternative causes
  2. assess people in charge understanding and analysis of the situation.

Mind preconceptions!

Sometimes what seems an obvious cause to something is not the real cause, what we think we understand is totally different. Relying on one’s own beliefs can lead to misunderstandings and false conclusions.

This could be problematic in case of an assessment, e.g. for qualifying a supplier.

Asking without inferring the answer is a way to check if alternatives answers exist, giving a chance to truly understand the nature of a problem, its cause or origin. And paying respect to people!

Understand people’s point of view

It is very different when somebody does something just because he/she was told to or when somebody just sticks to defined standards although knowing a better way to do it.

The first case depicts passive execution of non-engaged people who don’t care if instructions given are stupid or not.

The second depicts people aware of improvement potentials but do not know to express their suggestions or don’t dare to. Yet they stick to the rules, procedures and instruction as they understand these are the standards.

These kind of people are subject matter experts, as they not only have experience in performing the task but analyzed it and sought improvements.

It happens often that people “suffer in silence” or have good improvement ideas but don’t know how and to whom propose them. Asking questions during a gemba walk is an opportunity to surface not only hidden causes of problems, but also potential solutions and improvement.

Besides, paying attention to people and seeking their advice is paying respect to them.

You may also like: Gemba walk: go for the why, not the who (don’t look for someone to blame)


If you liked this post, share it!
View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn


How lean are you? Part 6 – Gemba walk as lean assessment

Measuring leanness is not always necessary, for instance when gathering qualitative clues is good enough for the purpose of the assessment. This would be the case for qualifying a supplier or find improvement topics.

Part 1 to part 4 of this series describe quantitative leanness assessment

Gemba walk as qualifying audit

When it comes to select and qualify a supplier in a list of candidates, before awarding him/her a contract over several years and develop a real partnership, it is wise to pay a visit to the facilities and assess the candidate’s performance and abilities.

Many such qualifying processes start with a standard questionnaire designed to gather some basic information. Many of these inquiries include questions about improvement programs, past lean initiatives and planned projects.

Some KPIs are also required in order to get an idea about the actual performance level and remaining improvement potential, which is a hint about actual risks for the customer as well as hint for future discounts as “shared improvement benefits”.

Yet figures can be misleading if it is not possible to differentiate effectiveness from efficiency or simply because all candidates want to appear at their best and dress their window accordingly.

In order to cross-check provided information, a gemba walk is a good tool. Such a walk would first check if the customer’s representative can walk the supplier’s talk or said simply: does the reality match the alleged situation, is the supplier trustworthy?

It doesn’t take lot of data to do this. Lean and non-lean situation are often highly contrasted, so evidences in both cases are easy to find.

As the outcome is a binary answer about confidence in the actual performance and potentials of the supplier, a lean expert word after a gemba walk is enough.


If supplier claims to pay keenest attention to quality but the shop floor is messy, dirty, with material and parts staked everywhere, the quality of delivered goods may be the result of thorough checking and filtering and come at high cost and not as a result of efficient and standard processes.

This exposes the customer to some risk regarding product’s quality, delivery – in quantity and time – as well as supplier’s potential bankruptcy in severe cases (his margin annihilated by excessive costs).

If changeover time is long and obviously SMED approach and techniques not known or mastered, flexibility can’t be good.

In case of shared resources with limited sprint capacity, it is likely that customers’ priority changes – something all B2B customers allow themselves – will disrupt the planning and lead to chaotic handling.

The deliveries would be at jeopardy and it is common that the customer shouting loudest will be given highest priority.

This means a lot of efforts for a given customer to secure his supplies. A kind of risk no auditor takes lightly.

Yet on a questionnaire alone, this kind of problem can seldom be foreseen.

Touring the shop floor reveals a lot about the company’s culture:

  • Do people look anxious and in haste or do they work smoothly and efficiently?
  • Do they wear required protections? Do they work in a well-tended, clean and well-lit environment?
  • Do they pay attention to material, parts, tools and equipment?
  • Is garbage visible somewhere?

Many of these kind of questions address discipline, morale, management and employee’s engagement.

These soft facts may influence the company’s performance and can only be sensed in situ.


Assessing leanness most often does not require complex measurement and ranking tools, a gemba walk by an expert is enough to give a grading and make a decision in an audit.

About me

How lean are you? Part 5

The previous posts described approaches for Lean assessment and leanness measurement with their strengths and weaknesses. Yet for self-assessment or when trying to get a feeling about a supplier, such in-depth analyses are not necessary.

The next series of posts starting with this one deals with qualitative approaches of a Lean assessment.

Starting with top management

In his e-letter dating back to April 2004 and having this inspiring title: how lean are you? Dan Jones starts his answer like this: “not by looking over your shoulder at your competitors or by counting the number of Kaizen events you have run”.

That means, do not wait for benchmarking and don’t be fooled by misleading indicators.

Instead ask yourselves seven basic questions.” Those questions are about 7 topics:

  1. Customer satisfaction
  2. Throughput time and inventories
  3. Production and scheduling
  4. Office processes, overheads and direct costs
  5. Use of freed up time, equipment and space
  6. Management systems for a lean transformation
  7. Plans to deliver the next generation product with enhanced functionality at 30% lower costs than current product?

I strongly recommend to read this e-letter (and all others as well!)

These questions and topics are typically those a Lean-aware visitor or auditor may ask when visiting a supplier or a Lean consultant when first touring the gemba with top managers. These are also typical questions any top manager should ask himself when paying a visit to the shop floor.

Question #1 reminds that all should be about customer, questions #2 and #3 are about operations, questions #4 to 6 are about management and #7 is about the future.

These questions may not suffice for an assessment but give clues about Lean awareness and state of mind of the top management. They could be asked in form of why? what? and how?

Bottom-up lean initiatives are less likely to succeed than top-down, the latter having management’s full support and usually linked to strategic objectives. Therefore, starting an interview with the top most manager gives valuable information about maturity and readiness to support Lean transformation.

Failing to answer convincingly questions 1;4;5;6 and 7 is no good omen and in case of supplier qualification may end the process fast, with a nogo.

>Next post: How lean are you? Part 6

How Lean are you? Part 4

This is the fourth post in the How Lean are you? series.

Measuring leanness

Author, Chris HOHMANN

In previous posts of this series I explained the advantage and necessity to assess leanness on two dimensions, one being primarily depicting how familiar with Lean tools and concepts people in the organization are, the second to measure tangible results: performance.

In part 2 we have seen that “awareness” is tricky when it means “knowledgeable”, as good Lean awareness can lead to no tangible outcome. To avoid this potential mismatching, I will refer from now to “maturity” which in my definition means familiarity not only by knowing but also using.

The matrix therefore looks like this:

The question is how to put a figure next to each dimension in order to plot the organization’s leanness?

Lean maturity

For assessing Lean maturity one way is to define what principles, methods and tools as well as activities routinely or at least frequently done would characterize a Lean organization?

Doing this for a European-wide study in the automotive industry, we defined no less than 21 items for this list, ranging from basic 5S to cyclical materials supplier in production (Milk run, water spider, etc.), from kaizen workshops to Value Stream Mapping or Visual Management and Poka-Yoke error proofing to production levelling (heijunka).

Each of these items had to be ticked in either categories: not implemented, pilot, halfway, extensively, completely, giving a grade on a five-levels scale.

The more items ticked in the category of widest coverage, the higher the maturity.

This way may not be perfect, in regard to frequency, consistency and so on. Furthermore, this being done via a questionnaire, the answers may of course be biased, but as explained in a previous post, the accurate benchmark the participants expected as feedback invited them to answer as faithfully as possible.

The final grade for Lean maturity has to be a single number, so the 21 grades were used to compute a Lean deployment index, what I refer to as maturity.

Lean performance

In order to appraise performance vs. Lean maturity, we selected 7 measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are common to any company and likely to be positively correlated to lean maturity: Raw material inventory, finished goods inventory, customer’s satisfaction, customers’ claim rate, OEE on bottleneck and pace of A product production (known as EPEI or Every Part Every Interval, which is a marker for production levelling).

As for maturity, the different items making Lean performance were used to compute a Value Stream Performance Index, which I refer to as “performance”.

Plotting onto the matrix

Now that each participating unit can provide data to compute a pair of coordinates, it’s easy to display them in the matrix.

The plots, about 150 of them, showed a nice scatter diagram with a positive linear correlation between maturity and performance, proving that the more lean-mature an organization is, the more performance it gets.

The beauty of this approach is that it is not sensitive to nature of activity or capital intensity, For instance, participants to this study had to be actors within automotive industry, but could be as dissimilar as OEMs, electric wire and harnesses provider, a tier two system maker or a stamping contractor as well as a plastic parts manufacturer. These activities use very different means, some of which extremely capital intensive, while others can operate with small facilities and simple equipment.

The indexes are common to any industrial company and therefore are welcome to compare very different companies.

About indexes

This approach has its biases. First of all it was designed for industry, so the metrics relate to manufacturing e.g. raw material inventories.

Another weakness is the dilution when computing the indexes, regardless how smart they’re calculated, they end up as some kind of averaging averages.

Yet, as every participant was assessed in the same way, the relative scores of all of them keep the result of great interest. As for any benchmarking, the most important is not to discuss the accuracy or reliability of the result but what can be done to improve the score.

>Next Post: how lean are you? part 5

What is a Goal Tree?

A Goal Tree, sometimes still referred to as Intermediate Objective Map or IO Map, is primarily a Logical Thinking Process tool, itself linked to the Theory of Constraints. The top of the tree deals with strategic planning while going down to its bottom links strategy to operations.

Bandeau_CH2The very top of the tree holds the Goal, the purpose, the vision. A unique box holds the concise “mission statement”, or the “why” this system exists. On the next level, three to maximum five Critical Success Factors (CSF) are top objectives that are mandatory to achieve in order to achieve the Goal.

Under each CSF a variable number of Necessary Conditions (NCs) are found. As for the Goal with CSF, NCs are conditions that must be fulfilled in order to achieve the CSF. NCs may then flourish to the details, each upper level NC being conditioned by lower level NCs, and so on.

A Goal Tree is built on necessity logic-based relationship that reads “in order to have…(upper objective) we must have…(lower condition)”, thus building a Goal Tree is straightforward.

Experience soon tells that Critical Success Factors (CSF) must be limited to five maximum (recommended). One good reason for this is for top management to keep overview with a limited set of really Critical Factors. If achieving the goal is related to a vast number of CSF, the goal might not be well stated or the venture likely to fail.

The second reason is that it’s easy to mismatch a Necessary Condition with a CSF. Therefore, keeping the number of CSF very limited forces the tree builders to check carefully every box.

Further explanations about building a Goal Tree can be found in William Dettmer’s publications.

Once built, the Goal Tree has a triple function:

  1. A Logical Future State Map: as the Goal can only be achieved when all Necessary Conditions are fulfilled, and these obviously aren’t met by the time the Tree is built, the Goal Tree is a glimpse of the future state.
  2. A benchmark and an actual situation Map: a Goal Tree is a benchmark against which to assess the current condition. When gaps between actual and future state are marked on the Tree, the Goal Tree turns into a snapshot of the current situation.
  3. A Road Map: With gaps identified and a clear view of what to achieve in order to achieve the Goal, the Goal Tree becomes a kind of road map.

Let’s explore the above points 2 and 3 somewhat more in detail. While depicting the Future State is the prime usage of the Goal Tree, depicting on the same Tree the actual situation is a personal interpretation, probably shared with many of those exposed to the Goal Tree.

Once the Tree completed, it is meaningful to color each box with the 3 Green / Amber / Red colors, according the completion and mastery of the box content.

Example: if one Necessary Condition states “we must keep our Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) over 80%” and the actual performance is only 65% at best, the box should be colored Red. If OEE is in the 75-80% range, the box may turn Amber. Once steadily over 80%, it turns Green.

This color code is immediately understandable and makes the Goal Tree fit for visual management.

The “rule of colors” states that an upper box takes the color of the worst case of Necessary Conditions underneath. If one NC is Amber, the upper level is Amber, if one NC is Red, the upper level turns Red.

The color code makes the Goal Tree a road map as Amber and Red boxes are to be turned Green in order to achieve the Goal. This is a way to focus the efforts and limited resources to the spots to improve mandatorily, consistently with Theory of Constraints precepts.

Over time, the colors on the Goal Tree should be changed according to improvements and issues solving. The Goal Tree starts with autumnal colors and goes green over time.

One practical hint: keep the original colored Goal Tree as it is as a reference and use a copy to display the change in color.  In this way, displaying the original and actual trees next to each others, the changes are made visible.

The Goal Trees used in such a matter find their places in the Obeya or Operations Room.

>Read also Goal Tree as vehicle for change management

If you liked this post, share it!

View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn