Saturday, January 15, 2011

Focus and Leverage Part 28

Prerequisite Trees - Basic Principles

In the last blog we discussed the elements of the Future Reality Tree (FRT). With the FRT you determined an injection of idea that you want to move forward with. With the FRT you want to determine what are those obstacles that stop you from doing this right now? Many people might be inclined to offer reason for “why” it won’t work.

Prerequisite Trees (PRT) are based on necessary conditions, which provide the process to systematically dissect any major tasks into a set of smaller segments of more achievable intermediate objectives (IO). Each IO is determined as a necessary condition to overcome previously known, or perceived, obstacles. Once they are identified, the IO’s are sequenced in the intrinsic order to accommodate for the existing time dependencies that will exist between them. The completed Prerequisite Tree presents the time sequence of the IO’s and the stated obstacle(s) each is intended to overcome.

Whenever you try to implement change it seems that the most frequent response is "It won't work here because..." These “because” statements are often followed by an explanation of what is perceived to be the obstacles (sometimes many) which can delay, obstruct, or completely block the achieving of the objective. In majority of cases, the presenter neither actively seeks, nor greatly appreciates the input of the naysayers. However, when building a Prerequisite Tree, such input for obstacles is actively required. By surfacing the obstacles in advance, the implementer has the opportunity to plan strategy to overcome them instead of waiting for them to block progress in reality.

Once the obstacles are identified, you need to create a specific IO sufficient to overcome or eliminate the impact of the obstacle. Each IO, when achieved, must be sufficient to overcome one or more of the obstacles which block progress. When all IO’s are achieved the path to completing objective is much more straightforward.

Sometimes when you are assigned a major new project the mere thought and scope of the effort can be daunting. It is difficult to figure out where to start and what to do. This difficulty is compounded even further by the fact that there could be many required IO’s necessary to reach the stated objective. By defining the obstacles in your specific situation and determining the needed IO’s you can map the logical and intrinsic flow, or steps, you must go through to achieve the desired objective. Many times you will find that simply defining and listing the obstacles to your objective will make it seem much more achievable to you and to others. In many case you will find the mystery has now dissolved. The Prerequisite Tree is a logical tool designed to drastically simplify organizing data for a large task. The intrinsic order of task completion will become obvious and set the foundation for a clearly defined implementation plan. If the logic is solid, then the implementation will be solid.

Prerequisite Tree (PRT)

Prerequisite Trees can be used to:
• Set Intermediate Objectives for implementation of the solution.
• Systematically dissect a major task into a set of interdependent bite-sized pieces.
• Identify and overcome obstacles.

This figure provides an example of the PRT structure. Note on the example that the objective boxes are squared cornered meaning they are the IO’s or something that does not yet exist in reality. The round cornered boxes are the obstacles, or statement from reality that do exist.

The tree is read “In order to have….” (Entity at the end of the arrow) “I must have…” (Entity at the base of the arrow) This statement sets up the necessity for the arrow. The obstacles are pointing to the necessity arrow. So when reading the entire statement it reads “In order to have…” (Entity at the tip of the arrow) “I must have…” (Entity at the base of the arrow) “Because…” (The statement from the Obstacle entity).

In the next blog we will discuss the steps to construct a PRT as well as some useful hints to consider.
Bruce H. Nelson

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