Friday, January 28, 2011

Focus and Leverage Part 30

Transition Trees (TT) - Basic Principles

In the last section we discussed the Prerequisit Tree (PRT) with its many Intermediate Objectives. It is possible that you could encounter a particular Intermediate Objective (IO) that seems difficult to accomplish. When such an IO is encountered, the Transition Tree (TT) can provide the steps necessary to accomplish the IO. In essence the TT can become the mini-implementation plan for a specific IO on your way to accomplishing all of the IO listed in the PRT.

TT’s are constructed using sufficiency-based logic, and can be used to define and scrutinize the specific actions required to reach an Objective. When you are creating an action plan, most people focus primarily on the actions themselves, or on the desired outcome(s) of the action. Usually the focus is on "What are we going to do?" and "How are we going to do it?" rather than "Why are we taking this action in the first place?" It is important to remember that the primary focus of the TT is to focus your attention less on what you plan to do, and more on what you want to accomplish when determining and communicating the needed actions. This is accomplished by coupling an action with a need to generate a desired effect.

This subtle, but important, shift in the focus, allows the you to:

  • Monitor implementation progress by watching the effectiveness of the actions (meeting intermediate objectives along the way to the overall objective) versus just completion of the actions.
  • Better make informed decisions and adjustments to the action plan, as required, instead of "going back to the drawing board" to re-write the entire plan.
  • Communicate the key elements of an implementation plan effectively to others; The "What" and the "Why".


The formal structure of a TT looks similar to a spinal cord, with the vertical stacking of Desired Outcomes. Because of this familiar “stacking” the core of the TT has been referred to as the “backbone”. This backbone provides the description of the IO’s, which will gradually create the changes required. These changes will occur in reality as a result of the planned actions. The TT methodology requires careful examination of the actions necessary to achieve the desired objective.

Parallel to the desired outcomes are the necessary actions. Each action is supported in sufficiency with additional causality of another desired outcome. When an ellipse supports an action, and desired outcome, then sufficiency has been established. By scrutinizing each action it can be determined if it is sufficient to produce the desired outcome and achievement of the TT Objective.

Many times we rely on a set of actions because “it worked for someone else,” without checking if the actions really lead to the outcome you want, or if they fit your unique situation. When using a TT as a blueprint for implementing an objective, the focus is on causing specific changes in reality, rather than sticking to specific actions just because we think they will work.

Transition Trees can be used to:

• Convert a strategic plan into a comprehensive tactical action plan.
• Plan important meetings, presentations, letters, phone calls, etc.
• Effectively delegate tasks through communicating both the “what”, and the “why.”
• Communicate how a sequence of desired actions will lead to specific effects.
• Solicit the needed collaboration of others.

The TT allows you to take your thinking to a very finite detail and determine the steps necessary to achieve the objective. The square “Action” boxes define the actions you must take coupled with the needs you are trying to fill, to achieve the desired outcome you want.

In the next blog we will discuss the steps for constructing a TT and developing the action plan to achieve the overall objective.

Bruce H. Nelson

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