The means-end diagram: a method to identify the means to reach objectives

This post is also available in: Spanish

My last post on Prevención Integral -the site by the Specific Research Centre for the Improvement and Innovation at Companies (CERpIE) of the Technical University of Catalunya- is entitled “Gestión de la #PRL: identificar los medios para resolver un problema” (OSH Management: identify the means to solve a problem) [1]. This is the most recent entry within the series I am developing on the tools for decision-making processes applied to the occupational safety and health management.

This article in particular, describes a tool for the systematic and organized identification of means aimed at fulfilling the objectives from each actor involved in a decision-making or problem solving process. It is called means-end diagram.

A means-end diagram is apparently similar to a goal tree [2]. They also have in common that, to built them, both start from a similar analysis of each actor´s objectives in the analyzed issue.

From that point, the means-end diagram is built upon a question asked to each objective: “how can I get it?”. The answer to each objective is embedded to the diagram as a short statement, linked with arrows to its corresponding objective. As a result of the procedure, a simple means-end diagram may look like this:


Should you go in detail on this method, I refer to the original post published in PI&ORP (Spanish).

The main benefit of applying this method is that it provides an overview of the causal relation between the alternatives to meet the objectives. These alternatives appear also well characterized. But, above all, a means-end diagram is also useful to systematize and organize the ideas, which provides soundness and solvency to the arguments used in a decision-making process.

[1] MAIRAL, DAVID. 16 Mar 2015. Gestión de la #PRL: identificar los medios para resolver un problema Prevención Integral. Consulted 17 Mar 2015.
[2] ARAGON VALLEY. 26 Feb 2015. Goal tree as a method to establish a good set of criteria. Consulted 17 Mar 2015.