Manufacturing ERP Software
Introducing The Goal Tree

Introducing The Goal Tree

By Bob Sproull


In the last fifteen posts we have reviewed all of the Theory of Constraint’s Thinking Process tools which included the Current Reality Tree, the Conflict Resolution Diagram, Future Reality Tree, the Prerequisite Tree and the Transition Tree.  The primary purpose of these logic diagrams was originally intended to answer the three very important questions we must answer before, during and after a continuous improvement initiative begins:

  1.     What to change?
  2.     What to change to?
  3.     How to cause the change to happen?


I explained that the Current Reality Tree is used to answer the first question of what to change?  The Conflict Resolution Diagram and the Future Reality Tree are intended to answer the question, what to change to?  And finally, the Prerequisite Tree (PRT) and the Transition Tree (TT), used together, were originally used to answer the third question, how to cause the change to happen.

Having told you all of this, I also explained that because of the complex nature of the PRT and the current belief that the usefulness of the TT has really proven to be limited, the amount of time we would spend on these tools would be limited.  We discussed both of these logic trees, but we didn’t delve into either one of them deeply.  I explained that the reason for this was because in upcoming blog posts, I would be introducing you to another tool referred to as a Goal Tree (a.k.a. Intermediate Objectives Map).  So with this in mind, let’s now move on to a discussion on what I consider the most important and useful tool you might ever learn, the Goal Tree.  For those of you interested in reading more about the TOC Thinking Process tools, I want recommend a great book by Bill Dettmer entitled, The Logical Thinking Process – A Systems Approach to Complex Problem Solving.

Some Facts and History

Many people who have gone through training on TOC’s Thinking Process (TP) tools have come away from the training somewhat overwhelmed.  Let’s face it, the TP tools are pretty intimidating and after receiving the training, I have seen so many people walking away from the training feeling like they were ill-prepared to apply what they had supposedly just learned.  Even for myself, I had this feeling and talking with others, there was a general confusion about how to get started.  For the average person, the TP tools are just not easy to grasp, so they end up kind of putting them on the back burner rather than taking a chance on making a mistake using them.  The other complaint I have heard many times is that a full TP analysis typically takes several days to complete and let’s face it, a regular executive team simply doesn’t have that kind of time to spend on this. Well for everyone who felt the same way after reading the last fifteen blog posts, or maybe having gone through the same Jonah training as I did or a full analysis, I have hope for you.  That hope for you is another logic diagram currently known as the Goal Tree.  I say currently, because the man responsible for creating the Goal Tree, Bill Dettmer [1], originally referred to this tool as an Intermediate Objectives Map (IO Map), but has elected to change its name.

Bill Dettmer tells us of his first exposure to IO Maps back in 1995 during a management skills workshop conducted by another TOC guru named Oded Cohen at the Goldratt Institute.  In recent years, Dettmer has written much about the IO Map/Goal Tree and now uses it as the first step in a full Thinking Process analysis.  Bill is passionate about this tool and believes that it defines the standard for goal attainment and its prerequisites in a much more simple and efficient way.  I happen to agree with Bill and believe that the IO Map is a great focusing tool to better demonstrate why an organization is not meeting its goal.  And because of its simplicity, it is easy not only learn, but also to teach others in your organization how to use it.

There are other advantages of learning and using the IO Map including a better integration of the rest of the TP tools that will accelerate the completion of Current Reality Trees, Conflict Resolution Diagrams and Future Reality Trees if you choose to use them.  But what I really like about the IO Maps is that they can be used as stand-alone tools resulting in a much faster analysis of the organization’s weak points and a rapid development of an improvement plan for your organization.  I have been teaching the IO Map for quite a few years, and I state unequivocally that the IO Map/Goal Tree has been the favorite of most of my classes and workshops.

One of the lessons I always tell my students and workshops is that they should always learn a new tool and then make it their own.  That message simply means that even though the “inventor” of a tool typically has a specific use in mind, tools should be continually evolving and such was case for me with the Goal Tree.  I have transformed this tool into one that most people grasp and understand almost immediately and see its usefulness in a matter of minutes.

Next time

In my next posting I will introduce you to the construction of the Goal Tree and begin to demonstrate why it is perhaps one of the best tools ever developed for achieving excellence in your company. As always, if you have any questions or comments about any of my posts, leave me a message and I will respond. 

Until next time.

Bob Sproull



[1] The Logical Thinking Process – H. William Dettmer, Quality Press, 2007



Bob Sproull

About the author

Bob Sproull has helped businesses across the manufacturing spectrum improve their operations for more than 40 years.

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