Hierarchies – Conference Leading and Participating *

This post contains the following hierarchies -

(a) Evaluation of Treatment of Contributions

(b) Encouragement to Listen

(c) Group Discussion of Course Objectives

(d) Improve the Conference Leading of Course Members

(e) Know how to achieve Understanding

(f) Achieve Consensus

(g) Act as a Useful Conference Member

(h) Decrease number of Ideas

(i) Know how to achieve Understanding

(j) Obtain a Contribution

Evaluation of Treatment of Contributions

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Hierarchies – Introduction

1. Over the years, I have drawn many Hierarchies of Objectives to -

(a) record my thinking about a particular topic

(b) check the clearness of my thinking

(c) help me plan how to achieve an objective

2. Some of them may help Readers to achieve one or more of the three objectives listed above.

3. The notes – How to draw and use Hierarchies of Objectives will give much more information on this topic

Faintness of Some Hierarchies

Some parts of some Hierarchies show as faint.  Any Reader who wants more details please email me – billmorton2003@yahoo.com


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The Advantages of using Hierarchies of Objectives for Planning


1 The following sections list and explain some of the advantages of using Hierarchies of Objectives for Planning.

Provides a check on a Planner’s thinking

2 Drawing a Hierarchy of Objectives helps check whether a plan will really achieve its end objective. In particular it helps consider whether various lower-level objectives will achieve some of the sub-objectives which the Planner believes will help achieve the end objective,

Shows which objectives help to achieve other objectives

3 A Hierarchy shows which objectives the Planner believes will help to achieve which other objectives. Other people can examine the Planner’s thinking.

Shows the reasons for some objectives

4 A Hierarchy shows what someone plans to do. For some objectives it also shows why. A consideration of the objective above a particular objective will help to establish the “why” for objectives.

5 The Hierarchy will not show a why for the end objective of the Hierarchy. However people can always look for the next-higher level objective(s) which the end objective aims to help achieve.

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Some Points on – Decide to – Achieve Operational Effectiveness and Achieve a Successful Strategy

The Need for Operational Effectiveness and a Successful Strategy

1 Professor Michael Porter in his Harvard Business Review article titled “What is Strategy?” argues that Organisations should try to achieve both Operational Effectiveness and Strategic Positioning.

2 Operational Effectivenessmeans performing similar activities better than Competitors perform them.

3 Strategy (according to Porter)means (a) performing different activities from Competitors or (b) performing similar activities to Competitors but in different ways1. Thus Organisations should aim to achieve a unique and valuable position in the market.

4 Porter suggests that both Operational Effectiveness and Strategy2 rate as essential for an organisation to achieve superior performance.

5 Probably most Managers ignore the advice in the article. Such Manager give a much higher priority to –

(a) Achieve Operational Effectiveness

as compared with

(b) Find and Achieve a Successful Strategy.

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The Advantages of starting an Objective with a Verb

1 In setting objectives, the advice – start all objectives with a verb has advantages.

2 It helps to ensure that the Users of the advice:

(a)   actually write an objective

(b)  become familiar with various types of verbs for particular situations and can think of them more readily.

(c) begin to distinguish between verbs which lead to specific objectives as opposed to those which lead to non-specific objectives.

Examples of Non-Specific Verbs

Discuss versus List/Identify

3 The verb “Discuss” can describe an activity where a group of people contribute a few ideas on a particular topic. Thus it proves easy to achieve the objective – Discuss “X” (where “X” can stand for anything)

4 However if the objective states (e.g.) list the advantages and disadvantages or identify the elements or principles which will help to achieve these verbs lead to a (Specific) in relation to the discussion topic.


5 Objective Setters learn that the words “improve” and “increase” introduce directional objectives.Anyone can achieve these objectives quite easily by a very small improvement and/or a small increase. When faced with an objective which begins with these verbs people should learn to ask the questions – “Just how much improvement?” and “How much increase?”


6 A person can carry out a review in five seconds so that this verb needs more detail.

7 (Further – the objective will need to specify something to review although this point does not refer to the verb.)


8 The verb “clarify” presumably means to make clear – but make clear to whom and just which area remains unclear to a person who sets the objective.


9 The same point applies to “check” as applies to “clarify”. However “check” can have a useful meaning if it means measure and compare the measurement with a known standard and report the result of the comparison. However, in this case, someone would have to know (a) what to measure and (b) the standard.

Stop using “to” and “that”

10 Many people write and/or state objectives using the word “to” or “that” before the verb appears. These words do nothing to make the objectives clear. Their deletion will save speaking, writing, listening, talking, and reading time.

The right Time for “Individual Think” versus “Group Think”

A Meaning for “Group Think” and “Individual Think”

1 The term “individual think” describes a situation where one person thinks about something – often how to solve a particular problem.

2 The term “group think” describes a situation where a group of two or more people thinks about something – they work together by group discussion.

3 However, even in a group-think situation, one or more Members can “switch off” from the group and carry out an individual-think activity. Probably such a situation will occur more often in larger groups – with (say) six or more in the group. Individuals will find it easier to “individually think” without the rest of the group knowing or wanting them to stop if the group has plenty of people to discuss the topic/problem.

Correct Choice between Individual and Group Think

4 Organisations will achieve their objectives more often and with fewer resources if they choose wisely between when to tackle a problem by individual think as compared with group think.

5 The following aims to identify situations where the different approaches will help or hinder achievement of objectives.

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Under what Circumstance should Planners prepare a clear written Plan

Circumstance One: A Plan – Only for the Planner’s Use

1 Anyone who wants to achieve an end objective will have to achieve some related sub objectives in order to do so.

2 Sometimes people give little time to selecting their sub objectives. They have some idea of how they will achieve their end objective and they try to identify and achieve sub objectives virtually as they go.

3 But some people prefer to prepare a written plan – for their own use. Often they will do so when they do not feel confident they can achieve their end objective and/or where they will have “many” sub objectives.

4 But, if no-one else needs to understand, and/or use, the plan; Planners do not have to make their plan understandable to others.

Circumstance Two: A Plan – For the Use of Others

5 Some situations require others to understand a Planner’s plan.

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When should Group Decisions occur?


1 In any Organisation someone has to make decisions. However an organisation can aim to have decisions made by (a) an individual or (b) a group of individuals. Thus someone (or a group) has to decide when a group should make a decision.

2 These notes identify some factors which deserve consideration when making such a decision. They do not aim to discuss which particular Members should make up a particular group with reference to a given decision.

The “Wrong” Reasons for having a Group make a Decision

3 The situations in which Groups should make decisions prove difficult to specify. As an initial approach these notes discuss when groups should NOT make decisions.

The Decision affects many People

4 Some people argue that where a decision affects many people, the people concerned should make the decision.

5 In most Organisations, many situations exist where one person makes a decision yet the decision affects a large number of people.

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When to set Non-specific Objectives and how to avoid their Dangers

Sometimes Managers should not spend time in determining “specific” Objectives

1 In general Managers should try to set specific objectives. However sometimes they should not do so because they will spend too much time obtaining the necessary information.

2 This situation will occur when:

(a) a Subordinate knows more about the area under consideration than the Manager and/or

(b) the Manager can more-usefully spend time on other work and the Subordinate can equally well (or nearly as well) spend time defining more specifically the possible sub objectives in relation to the non- specific end activity objective and/or

(c) the Manager wishes to provide training for a particular Subordinate in the topic/objective under consideration.

3 However in such cases both Managers and Subordinates will get help if they realise the general direction of their aiming point. (e.g. make a profit, travel carefully.)

4 Once both parties know the general direction, the Manager asks the Subordinate to make the end (activity) objective (more) specific.

5 Two approaches exist. A Subordinate can make the end objective more specific by (a) setting specific sub objectives and/or (b) finding out in specific terms what the end objective aims to achieve (i.e.) the next- higher-level objective.

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Will things work out – if I do nothing?

Decide to do nothing

1 Managers (and Non-Managers) sometimes do nothing about a given situation. Often this lack of action occurs (a) without any conscious planning or (b) because the Manager wants to avoid doing something which they believe will prove unpleasant.

2 Wiser Managers will – Decide to do nothing

A Generalised Decision Tree

3 The decision tree[1] in the following diagram shows the broad possibilities for a situation.

4 Managers should assess the probability that a given possible decision will produce a particular result – in order to make a wise decision. Thus, in such a decision tree as shown above, they should insert probability figures after the words – Better, No Change, Worse.

5 Note, probabilities must add to “one”[2] However some Readers may find it easier to think in terms of 100. Thus they can ask “If I do nothing, how many times out of a 100 will the situation get better (or worse or show no change) ?“

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