Saturday, January 22, 2011

Focus and Leverage Part 29

Prerequisite Trees – Steps to Construct

In the previous blog we discussed the basic principles that make up the Prerequisite Tree (PRT). In this section we will discuss the steps to construct a PRT and some helpful hints for each step.

Step 1 -Verbalize your objective.
A clear and complete verbalization of your stated objective will better enable you to stay focused. Without the necessary focus there could be a tendency to wonder off the path. The correct focus will help you achieve the ultimate objective. The best objective is to choose something that you truly want and which is beneficial to the system. It is possible when doing a full TOC analysis the Objective could be an injection from your FRT. Something you really want, or need, in order to benefit the system, but aren’t exactly sure how to achieve it.
- Identify a situation you have tasked to accomplish and you sense it will be difficult.
If you don’t already know how to accomplish the task, this will help you define the necessary steps.
- Ask yourself what the purpose or objective of the task is.
It must be something that we really want and which is worth the effort to work toward achieving.
- State the purpose as a specific objective in the present tense.
When using a Prerequisite Tree following a Future Reality Tree choose as an objective the injection that you feel will be the most difficult (often the largest one) to achieve. Many times some of the other injections on the Future Reality will be prerequisites to that difficult injection.
- Determine whether or not to use the Prerequisite Tree.
Not every situation will benefit from the time and energy required to do a PRT. When you are using a PRT following an FRT, usually some of your injections must be broken down further using a PRT.

Hint: Look at the big picture. Ask yourself whether or not the objective(s) you have chosen present any major obstacles that you do not already know how to overcome.

Step 2 - List the obstacles that prevent the attainment or existence of the objective.
Capturing all of the things that may block you from achieving your objective enables you to address each obstacle individually. People are very good at listing the reasons something "can't" be done. Typically you will feel much better about your ability to reach the objective simply by surfacing the obstacles.
- Write down an Objective at the top of the page.
If you are doing the PRT following an FRT, begin with the injection that looks like the most difficult.
- In one column, write down the major obstacles you think stand in the way of achieving the objective.
- Check each obstacle
Check that you have written an obstacle to your stated objective.
a. Check what you have written for entity existence. "Does (obstacle) exist in my current reality?"
b. Check what you have written for causality existence. "If (obstacle), then I will not be able to achieve (objective). "It is possible you have not captured the true obstacle that is preventing reaching of the objective. Be careful to keep the objective foremost in your mind so that you will not stray into obstacles that are not related to your objective. (FOCUS)

HINT: If you have two objectives/injections from the FRT work them separately. Start with the Injection you believe to be the most difficult to achieve. You may find that subsequent objectives are actually IO’s to the major objective you started with.

Step 3 - Determine Intermediate Objectives that eliminate the obstacles you have listed.
Tackling each obstacle individually helps to break the Objective down into a series of smaller pieces or Intermediate Objectives. Each Intermediate Objective should be sufficient to overcome its corresponding obstacle, and it should be more feasible for you to achieve than the Objective.
- For each obstacle on your list, ask yourself what would overcome it.
At this point you are not necessarily trying to define the actions that you must take to achieve the objective, but rather to state the other things that you must accomplish on the way to it.
- Write down your idea as an entity in the present tense.
This entity is called an "Intermediate Objective". When doing the PRT after a FRT, you can use other Injections as the IO’s. Sometimes one IO will overcome more than one Obstacle on your list. This is perfectly acceptable and can reduce the number of IO’s required to reach your Objective. However, each IO should be able to overcome the obstacle by itself. The IO should be more feasible than the Objective. Since we are trying to make the task of reaching the objective easier, each IO must be in itself more manageable than the ultimate Objective. If it is not, you should search for something else that will eliminate the obstacle and be easier to attain.

HINT: If you have difficulty coming up with an acceptable IO, use the Conflict Diagram to generate more ideas. If you feel “stuck” it is usually because of some conflict that blocks you from overcoming the obstacle - the Conflict Diagram will help you expose the conflict and enable you to break it.

Step 4 - Find the time dependencies between the Intermediate Objectives.
Most of the time you will find time dependencies that exist between IO’s, such that you cannot accomplish one without first accomplishing the other. These time dependencies establish the intrinsic order in which you must accomplish the IO’s and work toward the objective. In essence it provides the step for the implementation planning. Which one do you first? Which one second?
- Identify two Intermediate Objectives that have an apparent time dependency between them.
One must complete before the other can be happen.
- Illustrate the connection.
Necessary Condition arrows are between the IO”S, Sufficiency arrows are from the obstacle to the Necessary Condition arrows.

- Scrutinize the connection.
"In order to have (IO at the tip of the arrow), I must have (IO at the base of the arrow), because of (Obstacle at the base of the Sufficiency arrow)." AND "I cannot have (IO at the tip of the arrow) because of (Obstacle at the base of the Sufficiency arrow)." It may be necessary to add other IO’s and obstacles from your list to bridge and validate the connection. Sometimes there is a time dependency between 2 IO’s, but it is not a direct one. In these cases you will need to place other IO’s in between your original connection to make it more intrinsically logical.
- Connect additional IO’s from your list to this original cluster.
Try placing the other IO’s in their appropriate time dependencies sequence with the first cluster. Scrutinize each connection you make as in step 3. If an IO doesn't seem to fit add do not connect it to the others. This means it probably does not have a time dependency with the other IO’s and can be achieved without first accomplishing other IO’s. You may have more than one grouping in a PRT, as well as some IO’s that don't seem to fit anywhere.
- Connect the IO’s at the top of each cluster directly to the objective.
Any IO’s that are not connected to any others, as well as the top IO in each cluster are still needed to achieve the Objective, so they need to be connected directly to the Objective. These “hangers” are prerequisites for the objective and must therefore be tied below it. No IO’s should be left without any connection after this step. All IO’s should at least be connected to the Objective with their corresponding Obstacles.

Step 5 - Check the Prerequisite Tree for feasibility.
This step ensures that you have sufficiently separated the objective into workable IO’s to determine what actions we should take to achieve each Intermediate Objective. If you cannot think of the necessary actions to take, then additional obstacles must be present.
- Check the IO's that appear at the base of the tree - IOs with no arrows going into them.
You should have actions in mind on how to achieve each of them. If you don't it means that there are additional obstacles that you have not verbalized. If this is the case ask yourself what is the obstacle(s) that block me from achieving the desired IO. Select an IO for each and connect them at the base of the tree to the IO in question.
- Read the tree both top-down and bottom-up.

TOP-DOWN (starting with the Objective)
• "I can't have (tip of the necessary condition arrow), until I have (base of the necessary condition arrow)."

BOTTOM-UP (starting at the base of the tree)
• "I must have (base of the necessary condition arrow) before I can get (tip of the necessary condition arrow)."
- Move into action.
If appropriate, use a Transition Tree to develop your action plan if you are using the PRT as part of a full TOC analysis. The Transition Tree (TT) should be completed to insure that your actions will lead to the achievement of the necessary IO’s.

In the next blog we will discuss the basic principles Transition Tress (TT) and how they can be used to develop action plans for difficult IO’s.

Bruce H. Nelson

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