Tree of human goals: growing our effectiveness

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It is difficult to say who first coined this term “goal tree”. Lincoln Ackoff, as many point out... Or Brian Tracy under the term limitogram... Or the developer of the first mental maps... But that doesn’t matter. The main thing is that someone smart came up with an excellent structure for planning life and increasing efficiency and called it the “tree of human goals.”

By the way, there is also a “tree of enterprise goals” - the essence is the same, but the analysis is deeper. And in general, the principle of the tree of goals is suitable for solving practically any problems and tasks. Structure:

  • makes the complex transparent;
  • suggests optimal solutions;
  • allows you to optimize time.

How does this happen?

What is it and what is it for?

The goal tree method is considered one of the most effective methods for task planning. This method includes all the general principles of planning, simple and easy to learn. Essentially, this is a graph reflecting a plan for solving a particular problem.

  • The goal tree has a standard structure. The “trunk” of the goal tree is the main problem for which a solution needs to be found.
  • “Branches” are tasks of the second, third, fourth, and so on levels.

When planning a solution to a problem, a graphical representation of a tree is usually used. In this image, the tree has an inverted appearance, where the “trunk” represents the vertex of the graph and is located at the very top. And from it, the peak, the aspirations of subsequent levels grow, forming the crown.

A graphical representation of tasks in this form helps a person clearly think through a plan for achieving what is planned. By depicting his plans in the form of a graph, a person sees what problems he will encounter and what additional resources he will need to achieve his plans.

The graph also provides an approximate estimate of how long it will take to achieve the goals. With this presentation of the solution to the problem, the connections and dependencies of some tasks on others become visible.
Today, the goal tree method is used in scientific forecasting by managers when managing projects, as well as for planning personal issues.

Table with iPhone subgoals at three levels

Apple's goal tree is presented in a simplified version in the form of a table.

Improving iPhone with consumers in mind
First level goals
1. Eliminate the range and popularity of the brand2. Simplify the interface3. Increased attractiveness for consumers4. Improved ergonomics
Second level goals
2.1. Simplify manufacturability 3.1. Creating a new design 4.1. Special owner status
3.2. Increasing memory capacity 4.2. Last mile solution
3.3. Enhancing the entertainment aspect 4.3. Reduce size

To solve the “last mile” the following tasks were identified:

  1. Use touch screen and make sure there are no buttons.
  2. Create additional options.
  3. Enlarge screen.

The next step is to fill out the “leaves” or activities to achieve the subgoals. To do this, specific deadlines for completing tasks, the required volume, resources, cost and significant quantitative indicators must be indicated.

The last step is to depict the goals in the form of a tree with branches.

How to build

The rules used to build the goal tree are very simple:

  1. First, the main problem that needs to be solved is determined. This will be the top or “trunk” of the tree. This type of task is usually called a general task. As a rule, it cannot be achieved immediately. In order to achieve it, it is necessary to solve other subgoals, the result of which is necessary to fulfill the general one. These subgoals will be called “branches”. A branch can also have subgoals.
  2. When building a tree of goals, you need to describe each branch clearly and in detail. Each goal must also have the required number of subgoals in order to be realized. The result should be a tree that completely coexists with the solution to a particular problem. It should contain all the necessary steps and resources to solve the main problem.

Methodology in practice

Practice shows that a small number of people master this technology. Some don't have enough time, others are afraid of doing something wrong, and so on. The key to success is systematic training and understanding of your actions. You can start with something simple: set a goal for yourself to master the “Tree of Goals” technology in a month. Constant training helps develop habits, and achieving even minor successes will generate motivation for activity. Of course, this is a matter of time, but a properly constructed tree and specific methods for achieving goals, willpower and endurance will help achieve considerable success not only in activities, but also in a person’s life.

Construction principles

Management has adopted the following principles for constructing a tree of goals:

  • Consider needs and resources

Setting a goal assumes that there is some problem that needs to be solved. As a rule, tasks that require planning cannot be solved immediately. Because they are quite complex and require an integrated approach to solving.

It happens that a given task cannot be solved because there are not enough resources to solve it. Or there is no way to assess the availability of resources, since the problem is too big. In this case, a goal tree is a good option for analyzing the situation. Consider the needs and resources at your disposal when constructing your goal tree.

  • Be specific

Using a goal tree in planning, formulate tasks specifically. Keep in mind that they must be final. Describe the parameters by which it will ultimately be possible to determine whether it is completed or not. It is also necessary to set the time needed to complete the task.

  • Break the production into stages

It would be rational to set tasks in several stages. The first step is to set a general goal. Then, resources are searched and analyzed to carry it out. After which, as a rule, you will need to set subgoals. Similarly, resources are also sought for the implementation of subgoals.

Thus, the development of the main task continues until the entire scheme for its solution is thought out. Tasks are refined and clarified as long as necessary.

  • Compatibility

Subgoals must be sufficient to solve the main plan, that is, if all subgoals are achieved, this leads to the solution of the main task. It should not turn out that when all subgoals are completed, additional actions or resources will be required to solve the main task. If it turns out this way, then this indicates that the goal tree was built incorrectly.

  • Compliance with enterprise structure

If a goal tree is used to organize the work of a business or enterprise, then its structure must correspond to the structure of the enterprise. In such a way that each department or division achieves its aspirations, which in the future should lead to the achievement of the overall vision of the enterprise. This is the most convenient construction of a goal tree for systems consisting of several elements or enterprises.

  • Decomposition method

When constructing a goal tree, the decomposition method is often used. The essence of this method is to split the main goal of the highest level into private subgoals. Or, in reverse order, a plan for achieving the highest level plan is drawn up from subgoals. To solve a specific problem, you should always choose the option of creating a goal tree that is most suitable and optimally uses resources.

Advantages of the Goal Tree

The technique allows you to clearly and clearly divide any large project into many sequential actions, the implementation of which will lead to the goal.

The system has huge advantages over any other types of planning:

  1. Visibility – all even minor actions are marked
  2. Logicality – it is clear how to achieve your goals
  3. Consistency – you can’t “jump” or forget about any stage
  4. Conciseness – one problem = one tree of goals

Construction examples

Let's analyze the construction of a goal tree using the following examples of goals: admission to a university and financial well-being. How to get a goal tree?

The example of entering a university describes the formulation of the main task, subgoals, and allocation of resources. And also how resources are used to resolve the issue. In the example about financial well-being, another option for constructing a graph is considered.


Let’s say the main goal is to enter a university. Building a tree of goals for a future student requires taking into account available resources and identifying subgoals. What resources might there be for entering a university?

Resources in this case include:

  1. Education received at school;
  2. Family financial capabilities;
  3. Connections

Taking into account the available resources, it is necessary to obtain a tree of goals. For this purpose, subgoals are identified. They depend on resources. For example, a family has little finances, no connections, a young man graduated from school without a medal, and has average grades in knowledge.

We get the following subgoals:

  1. Establish connections, if possible;
  2. Take out a loan for education or find a source of additional income;
  3. Study with a tutor.

In turn, these goals may have subgoals. Let's look at the example of goals for classes with a tutor. This should include:

  1. Organizing additional income to pay for tutor services;
  2. Finding a tutor with the necessary knowledge;
  3. Allocating extra time for classes.

Of course, each specific case will have its own resources and options for solving the problem. After all, there are rich parents with connections and a child who does not study well. Then the structure of the entire plan will change very much.

It will also depend on what university a person wants to enroll in. Since for admission, for example, to an ordinary unpopular university, where there is a competition, perhaps one person per place, this is one planning option. But entering a prestigious foreign university is something completely different. Here you will additionally need knowledge of the language, and exploring the possibilities of living in another country while studying, and obtaining a visa, and much more.


Now let's look at an example of constructing a graph to create financial well-being. Let's start building a tree of goals by setting the main goal: financial well-being. The goal tree can be depicted graphically, it will be more clear.

Conventionally, financial well-being can be achieved by achieving three subgoals:

  1. Passive income organizations;
  2. Active income organizations;
  3. Luck and freebies.

Thus, the goal tree has three second-level items. Then each of the points is divided into subgoals, which form the third level. For example, an active income organization may have the following items:

  1. Change of place of work;
  2. Receiving additional education;
  3. Change of profession;
  4. Moving to a different city;
  5. Independent development in the professional field;
  6. Establishing connections within a team;
  7. Gaining experience.

Again, this is just a general example. A janitor's ideas and resources for organizing financial success, for example, will be very different from the financial plans of a wealthy businessman. For some, an additional income of several thousand rubles will be a great success or the purchase of a modest home in the suburbs. And for some, the acquisition of another plant will be only a small part of the plan.

By analogy, the graph is built further. The goal tree can have any number of subgoals at each level except the first. At the first level there is always one main aspiration. It is important that it fully describes the plan to solve the problem.

History of the management by objectives approach

The technology of management by objectives has serious founders and a long history of development. The concept of management by objectives (MBO) was introduced into business practice back in 1954 by Peter Drucker. Management by objectives is based on the formalized goals of the company, the goals of the company's employees, as well as regular procedures for assessing progress in achieving goals.

According to Peter Drucker's technology, management by objectives is built in accordance with five basic principles. The first principle involves developing goals down to the level of each employee, while the employee’s goals should directly follow from the goals of the organization. The second principle states that goal development uses top-down goal granularity from the strategy level to the employee level, as well as bottom-up goal aggregation to link employee goals to company goals. The third principle involves interaction between the manager and the employee when formulating goals, rather than simply communicating the set goals to the employee without the possibility of discussing and adjusting them. The fourth principle requires regularly assessing progress towards goals and analyzing feedback from employees. Well, the fifth involves using the SMART principle when formalizing goals.

Expert assessments.

Despite the great role of MMM in solving economic and managerial problems, they cannot be considered sufficient if there is not enough digital information for decision-making. The procedure for forming goals and options for their implementation cannot always be formalized, i.e. in the form of a formula. Heuristic methods are based on the use of experience and intuition of those who use them; heuristic (informal) methods are used. Examples of traditional heuristic procedures are meetings and examinations. To process expert material, mathematical methods (statistical) are used. If expert judgments are expressed in quantitative form, then they are called. expert assessments. There will be 2 levels of using expert assessments: qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative – associated with determining possible directions for the development of the external environment, choosing goals and development strategies.

Quantitative – used in determining point scores, coefficients of relative importance (RIC)

The method of obtaining integral expert assessments based on weighted sums is also used. Ec method estimates are used to predict future events

If statistical data is missing or insufficient, they are also used for quantitative measurements, when assessing the importance of goals, preferably. Department

var. decisions.

The value of receiving assessments depends on the experience and intuition of the person forming the assessment. The way to reduce the risk of subjectivity in individual judgment is to contact a group of experts, make inquiries about them and use methods that lead to an average assessment.

The Value of Setting Goals

The human consciousness is designed in such a way that it believes only in what it can imagine and therefore can achieve. The tree of goals plays an important role here, because by visualizing images and methods of solving problems, the human subconscious gives instructions for action.

When a person has figured out what he wants, he has the desire to find the right path and go in the right direction, thus he begins to act. The goal tree provides motivation, so time and funds are distributed wisely. A person begins to plan and think through everything down to the smallest detail, and enthusiasm appears. Sooner or later, he will begin to notice opportunities and ways to implement a given plan that arises on his way.

Why do you need a graphical representation of goals?

The tree helps to identify the overall picture of the relationship between events and assess their importance at a specific stage.

If you are building a model for an organization, then with it you:

  • coordinate the activities of all departments;
  • increase the responsibility of performers;
  • You will clearly control the discipline and timing of project implementation;
  • consider the possibility of change;
  • ensure effective information management of processes.

The Personal Goals Tree will help you:

  • use time effectively;
  • fulfill the dream;
  • understand priorities;
  • prepare for unforeseen situations.
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