How to make an objective tree: Practical example

If we are thinking of elaborating an objective tree, it is because we have identified a central problem. In this sense, to establish the objectives, we start from a problem tree (cause-effect) where what we will do is to look for the opposite situation (positive situation) of what was analyzed before.

This is today’s topic for business management.

What is the objective tree?

Also called means-ends tree or solution tree,  this tool allows us to transform from the problem tree the causes (roots) into means and the effects (leaves) into ends , besides guiding us towards the analysis of alternatives by taking the means into strategies.

Advantages of the objective tree

With an analysis of objectives we achieve:

  • The future situation is visualized around the resolution of the problems previously detected.
  • The relationship of the problem with the means and ends is understood at a glance.
  • The objectives to be considered are weighted according to their order of importance or sequence in their resolution.
  • There is a starting point to initiate the solution of the central problem: The solution alternatives.

How to make an objective tree step by step

If you are preparing to make an objective tree, it is because you have already analyzed the problematic situation and you have a problem tree. From this point we start to make a tree of objectives or means and ends:

  • From negative to positive: There are already causes and consequences, let’s write them in positive to transform causes into means and effects into ends. As long as we have relevant causes and consequences, they will be the means and ends that we obtain. If the means and ends obtained are not appropriate or are considered too diffuse, we discuss the problem situation again and reconsider a modification to the problem tree.
  • Check and modify: It is done. Now let’s check for redundancies, similarities or inconsistencies in the tree. A good way to accomplish this is to establish a 1 to 1 relationship from cause to effect and from effect to end. For example: Central problem: High juvenile delinquency in the San Rocke neighborhood:
    • One of the causes is: Centers for the sale of hallucinogenic drugs offered outside the neighborhood schools.
    • An effect for this: Increase of the juvenile population that consumes hallucinogenic drugs.
      The effect converted into an end would be: Decrease of the youth population that consumes hallucinogenic drugs.
    • This same analysis is what we do to verify and modify the objective tree. Of course it is an example, and the cause I placed suggests many more effects, at the same time that these derive into many more ends.
    • Adjust: What is sought with this step is to make the method flexible. If you have already transformed the problem tree into an objective tree, analyze it once more and ask yourself, is there anything missing? If your answer is yes, put it in.
  • With this done, it only remains to move from the problem tree to the objective tree, taking the causes to means and the consequences to ends, and this is what we are going to see with the example started in the problem tree post.

Example of an objective tree

Recalling the result of the problem tree:

Let’s transform causes into means and effects into ends.

Notice the following things:

With the objective tree we moved from the negative to the positive, with the positive being, the situation where we want to get to, where we are aiming for.

In most of the blocks, the change consisted in using the antonym of the word that described the problem, cause or effect, although…

In some blocks, it is not enough to use the antonym of the word since we will not be facing the problem. For example, it does not make sense that in cause number 1 “insufficient staff training” we place as an objective “sufficient staff training”. If we are trying to solve the problem, we have to have trained staff and make sure that this training works, that is why this objective is “staff trained and evaluated to provide customer service”.

Based on the above points, our solved objective tree looks like this:

If before the problem was the increase in complaints and claims, now our objective is to reduce complaints and claims.

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