Saturday, November 5, 2011

Focus and Leverage Part 59

Intermediate Objectives (IO) Map

The Intermediate Objectives (IO) map was developed by H. William (Bill) Dettmer3, and in the spirit of combining methods (Unification) within a methodology this tool fits the criteria.  The IO map has been refined over the years to become a very practical and useful organizational and thinking tool.  Instead of using the full spectrum of the Thinking Process tools to conduct an analysis, the IO map combines the Prerequisite Tree (PRT) and the Conflict Diagram (CD) into a single tool.  In his paper about Intermediate Objective mapping, Dettmer defined the IO Map as a Prerequisite Tree (PRT) without any obstacles defined.  Dettmer’s primary intent for this tool was to simplify the construction and accuracy of the CRT – to focus the attention on a better defined objective, rather than a core problem.   In this context the IO map can be used to surface the undesirable effects (UDE’s). In most cases, the UDE’s can be discovered by verbalizing the exact opposite of the desired intermediate objectives that are listed.   These UDE’s then become the building blocks for a Current Reality Tree (CRT).  It makes sense that UDE’s can come from the IO’s.  UDE’s are what currently exist and the IO’s are what you want to exist.  In essence, the IO’s are what “you want” and the opposite wording of the IO’s would embrace the UDE list.

Dettmer also defines an expanded function for the IO map, indicating that it serves well the purpose of strategy development, and as such, it does provide a robust tool to do that.  The IO map used a standalone technique can provide the necessary clarity and direction to accomplish a needed strategy.

The IO Map is a very concise organizational thinking tool based on necessity logic.  The IO map allows the user to define the IO’s and then the intrinsic order of  the IO task completion by using necessity logic.  In other words, it is read with necessity as the outcome.  In order to have… (Entity Statement at the tip of the arrow), I must have…(Entity Statement at the base of the arrow).  Necessity logic states, in essence, that entity B must exist before you can have entity A.  The entity cannot be there just sometimes, or most of the time, but, instead necessity states it MUST be there.  The existence of entity B is not a causal existence. Necessity requires that the “B entity” exist before the “A entity” can be achieved.

The structure of the IO map is really very simple. There are three primary levels, or thinking levels required to construct the IO map. The first level is defining the GOAL.  The second level identifies the Critical Success Factors (CSF) or, those intermediate objectives that must exist prior to achieving the Goal. The third level is populated with the remaining necessary conditions required to achieve the Critical Success Factors (CSF).  Figure 6 provides an example of the basic structure of an IO map.
Figure 6

Figure 7 shows an example of the IO map that was created using our IO list example.
Figure 7

You’ll notice the shaded IO’s in the diagram.  These are the IO’s that were surfaced when building the IO map.  These IO’s did not appear on the original IO list, but instead surfaced after construction began on the IO map.

The ID/IO Simplified Strategy

Now that you have an understanding of both the Interference Diagram (ID) and the Intermediate Objective (IO) map and how they can be used as standalone techniques to generate some impressive improvement results, let’s talk about how they can be combined.  The Simplified Strategy is a way to combine these two tools, depending on the situation being analyzed and the desired outcome required.  It is possible that when using the ID to define the interferences, they are actually obstacles that are not necessarily time driven, but rather event driven.  The ID allows you to define the obstacle/interference, if they are not already well know.  Sometimes, the obstacles do not provide the means to implement a simple solution in isolation, but rather are collectively connected by necessity.   In other words, when you develop the list of obstacles using the ID, the IO list becomes the verbalization opposite of the obstacle rather than just an injection.  You are looking for the IO’s that must exist in reality to make the obstacle/interference not a problem anymore.

What happens next is the listing of IO’s becomes just that - a list of IO’s.  Now, with the IO mapping tool you can establish the logical necessity between single IO events (entities) that requires another predecessor event (entity) before the event can happen.  In other words, there is a logical dependency and intrinsic order in the sequence.  Just randomly selecting and completing of IO’s will not satisfactorily achieve the goal.  When you analyze the IO list you realize that ALL of the IO’s need to be completed, but which one do you start with first?  When this is the case, the IO map can be used to determine the sequence and order of completion.  From the IO list you can determine which events are Critical Success Factors (CSF’s) and which ones are the Necessary Conditions (NC’s.) By using the IO to map to determine the necessity between the events, it becomes exactly clear which IO you need to start with to implement your strategy.  Each level of the IO becomes logically connected to formally outline the “strategy” and “tactics.”  In other words, the goal is the strategy and the Critical Success Factors are the tactics to accomplish the goal.  At the next level the Critical Success Factors become the strategy and the Necessary Conditions become the tactics.  The same thinking applies down through the next levels of Necessary Conditions.  When you reach the bottom of an IO chain, then you know what action you need to take first to start the process moving up through the IO’s.  By using the IO map as a problem solving supplement to the ID it provides the needed organization to logically align the IO’s.  The ID map will provide the well-defined obstacles/interferences to better focus the creation of the correct IO’s to negate the obstacles.  Consider also, that sometimes it is very difficult to generate a good solution without first understanding what exactly the problem is.

Even though these tools can be used in combination it might not always be necessary to do so.  In fact the power of these tools allows them to be used in reverse order if so desired.  If you already understand what you need to do, then the IO map can be your beginning tool.  If, however, you are not so sure why you cannot achieve a particular goal, then the ID helps identify the obstacles/ interferences. Even if you begin with the IO map and you discover a particular IO that is necessary, but you’re just not sure how to make it happen, then you can use the ID as a subset of the IO map to discover the interferences for achieving that IO.  If you remove the interferences for the IO, then you can achieve the IO.  When you achieve that particular IO you can move on to the next one.  If you already know how to accomplish that IO, then fine.  If not, then use the ID again to surface the interferences.

Figure 8 shows a possible template for the combined approach.
Figure 8
With the ID/IO Simplified Strategy complete you now have the outline necessary to prepare an effective and accurate Implementation Plan.  The intent of the IO map is not to provide implementation detail at a low level, but rather to provide milestones or markers to make sure you are walking the right path.  For each IO listed you can provide the required detail about how it will be completed.

In a world that requires “Better, faster, cheaper”, the Simplified Strategy approach of the Interference Diagram (ID) and Intermediate Objective (IO) Map (ID/IO) can provide exceptional results in a shorter period of time.  By combining the power of these thinking tools the user will benefit from an effective and complete analyzes that is completed in significantly reduced time.  These tools, used in either a standalone environment or a combined approach, will provide the thinking necessary to develop good results.  The speed with which these tools can be used is an enormous benefit over the original System Thinking tools to allow the ability to answer the three questions:

                What do I change?

What do I change to?

How do I cause the change to happen?

The structure and concept behind these tools makes them easily adaptable and well understood and accepted in a group situation to allow for faster collection of data and analysis of issues.

Bruce H. Nelson,
Jonah, Jonah’s Jonah
TOCICO Board Certified

1.       Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox, The Goal – A process for ongoing improvement, North River Press, Barrington, MA. 1992

2.       Robert Fox, TOC Center, New Haven, CT., discussions, circa 1995.

3.       H. Wlliam Dettmer, “The Intermediate Objectives Map”,, November, 2008.

4.       Bruce H. Nelson, “ID/IO Simplified Strategy” (CS2), Original works,  March 2011
Copyright © 2011 by Bruce H. Nelson.  All rights reserved


Anonymous said...


This is some really innovative thinking. I can see some great benefits to this type of strategy for problem solving. Thanks for sharing this new thinking.

Bob Sproull said...

Thanks Anonymous, I'll pass your comment along to Bruce Nelson. He's the author of these last several posts. I do agree with you regarding the great benefits of this type strategy.


Bob Sproull said...

I'm wondering if there is a particular subject of interest that anyone would like me to write about? If there is, just leave a comment.


Anonymous said...

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Bob Sproull said...

Thanks for the nice compliments...I just wish you wouldn't have been anonymous.