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

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

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

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Focus and Leverage Part 27

Future Reality Trees – Steps to Construct

In the last blog we discussed the basic principles of the Future Reality Tree (FRT). In this section we will discuss the necessary steps to construct an FRT.
Steps to Construct.

The following steps provide the intrinsic order of thinking when constructing an FRT. It is best to follow in the order given to construct the best possible tree.

Step 1 - Define the function of the Future Reality Tree.
When constructing an FRT it is always best to define the function. In other words, “why are you constructing the tree?” A Future Reality Tree can be used to construct a full solution that you want to implement. It can also be used to test an idea (yours or someone else's) or to present the merits of an idea to someone else. When you focus on what role you want this technique to be used for, then the remaining analysis will be more relevant.

Step 2 - Capture the idea.
There can be a significant difference between a “new” idea and a “good” idea. A good idea is one that accomplishes its objectives without creating unwanted negative effects. In this action, the new idea is captured verbally. Again, capture your idea as succinctly and concisely as possible. A single statement that captures clearly what it is you really want to do.

Step 3 - Make a list of potential Desirable and Negative Effects
One thing you want to verbally capture is the desired positive effects that you would like to see happen. The list of desired effects will depend on the type of FRT you are constructing, Suppose you are constructing an FRT to complement a full TOC analysis, then you can use the Undesirable Effects (UDEs) from the CRT as a guide. For example, suppose one of the UDEs from the CRT was “ROI is too low” then the Desired Effect would read: “ROI is high”. Continue building your Desired Effects list until you have listed all, or most, of the things you want.

There may be some expectations, as well as possible concerns about what this idea, once implemented, will accomplish. What you are looking for are the “good” things that will exist when the idea is implemented. Write down the potential positive effects and the potential negative effects (Step 6) of what this idea, once implemented, will cause. Be honest and be logical. Spend the time necessary to filter those emotional statements from the logical statements.

Step 4 - Build the causal connections between the Injection and Desirable Effects.

You are looking for the causal relationship between two of your desirable effects. Can you see a connection between any two entities where one would be sufficient to cause the other? If so, make the connection. If you are using the tree to validate an Injection from a CD, then it is desirable for the Injection to be near the bottom of the tree. What you are looking for are all of the desired effects that will come from the Injection. At this stage, continue to look for, and connect the other causal links between the Injection and the Desirable Effects. In the course of constructing the tree it is very possible you will surface additional desirable effects not on your original list. It is also possible that you will add additional Injections to take care of the potential Negative Effects.

Step 5 - Strengthen your analysis.
A powerful outcome from constructing an FRT is to look for the positive reinforcing loops. In other words, those things that, through time, just continue to keep happening These positive loops help ensure that the solution will work the way you want it to over and over again.

Apply the Categories of Legitimate Reservation (CLR’s) and strengthen the logic. Are there additional positive effects (Predicted Effects)? Is there additional cause required to make something happen (Injection)? Full scrutiny with the CLR’s will result in a powerful and useful FRT.

Step 6 - Actively Seek Negative Branches
This is probably one of the most important aspects and outcomes from an FRT – looking for the Negative Branches or Negative Effects from your idea. Don’t be frustrated and think that your idea won’t work because you found a negative effect. Quite the opposite is true. It now provides an opportunity to know that a negative effect is possible and allows the chance to inject with an additional idea to keep the negative effect from happening. It’s much better to attack it now and have a way to overcome, than wait until it is actually implemented. It’s part of the necessary planning. Applying the Negative Branch technique helps ensure that the medicine is not worse than the disease. If you don't find and resolve the negative effects as part of your solution, the negative effects will appear in reality--and be much more difficult to solve.

Once you have completed the FRT and discovered the best idea that you want to move forward with, the next question becomes “What stops me from doing this right now?” In the next blog we will discuss the Prerequisite Tree (PRT). The PRT is used to define and overcome the obstacles that seem to be stopping the implementation of your good idea.

Bruce H. Nelson