How to create a value driver tree

The value driver tree is a tool used to identify the root cause of an issue. In our case it is used to identify causes of business issues. The value driver tree is also known as a fishbone analysis. 

The value driver tree is a very useful model to use when engaging in discovery sessions with prospective and current clients. You should be familiar with the model so that you are able to use it in conversations as a way to structure thinking. The best use case is creating a value driver tree on a whiteboard, computer or paper flip-chart as part of the meeting with clients, prospects and internal stakeholders.

An example of a simple value driver tree is shown above. In this case the issue facing the business is declining profitability.

The next level to the right of the business issue breaks the issue of declining profitability down to three possible solutions. The third level are the actions needed to execute the solutions. A key concept when creating value driver trees is MECE.

The MECE model is used to separate items into subsets that are ‘mutually exclusive’ and ‘collectively exhaustive.’ The MECE model as developed by Barbara Minto at McKinsey and Company in the late 1960s. You can learn more here.

In some cases these actions may directly address the issue or be actions such as research and analysis. In the latter case, this may then lead to a further value driver tree created to reflect the outcomes of research and analysis.

A value driver tree must focus on one single issue. Therefore there may be a number of value driver trees created in the course of a discovery session. It is common to start the process with a value driver tree to determine which of a range of issue should be prioritised and then break that down to individual issues. 

The example above shows a value driver tree that will then be broken down into the issue that is considered the highest priority. 

The value driver tree helped my client remain focused and not go off in a number of different directions. In my consulting practice, I only focus on one issue per engagement. I have learned this removes the risks of project creep and uncertainty about closure of an engagement. 

Once I have worked with my client to create a value driver tree on the challenge with the highest priority, there are two necessary steps before we commit to working together. The first step is gaining conceptual agreement. The process to this point is very positive for the client. Once the person is fully able to identify a business issue there is a sense of relief even before a solution is executed. 

The positive state achieved in the value driver tree process is the precursor to conceptual agreement. The conceptual agreement is both parties agreeing that there is a compelling case for moving forward with an engagement to build and apply a solution to the business issue. The conceptual agreement is gained by asking the client whether they wish to solve this issue using you and/or your firm. 

When this question is asked, there may be a few responses. One may be related to cost, another related to time, another related to decision making, etc. There is absolutely no point in developing a proposal with costs, activities and timelines until you have reached conceptual agreement with your client. 

This is always very hard for my clients to accept. Most people in business to business professional services are using an outdated paradigm wherein the proposal is a huge document that is used to sell an engagement to a client or prospect. This is all wrong. The proposal I use includes seven sections and the whole document is rarely more than four to seven pages. I will cover more about proposals in another article.

For now let’s assume you gain conceptual agreement with the client or prospect. You are now ready to create your short proposal. What about the value driver tree?

The value driver tree is captured and saved. You photograph the whiteboard, photograph and roll up the flip-chart paper, save the digital file or whatever. The value driver tree is your navigation tool moving forward with the the engagement. The value driver tree will set the scope of the engagement as well as define the parameters of the activities that are going to be included in the engagement. I will cover more about using the value driver tree to develop your engagement plan in another article. 

Can you really implement ‘grassroots’ social learning?

Social learning is leaving the standard LMS behind.

YouTube is THE social learning platform. The range of learning available on YouTube reflects the growth in informational data being created every minute of every day. When you are faced with a computer issue, where do you go? If you are seeking to learn a new Excel skill? If you want to learn how to French polish an antique? The same process applies to people in your organization. According to research by Degreed in 2015, respondents to a survey indicated:
  • Almost 85% search online at least once a week for learning they can apply at work.
  • Nearly 70% learn from peers or by reading articles and blogs every week.
  • 53% learn from videos in any given week.
Not much of a mention for the corporate LMS? Social learning is based on speed of access, accuracy of subject matter and easy to apply learning. Does your current LMS and the content offered from it, comply with these parameters? To address this issue by giving up on the LMS is not necessarily the best way to go. Many LMS platforms have been designed with an emphasis on ‘management’ as opposed to ‘learning.’ Many modern learning management systems include configuration options to support better social learning. It can often mean a change of mindset as opposed to a change in technology to achieve effective social learning outcomes. You should check out this post by David James of that gives an excellent example of how Sanoma Group ‘re-imagined’ L&D and successfully tapped into subject matter experts and created learning content that was easily accessible and improved peoples’ ability to do their work effectively. If this interests you, get in touch by clicking here.  We will share some insights and a case study based on helping organisations achieve better results with ‘grassroots’ social learning.

Disruption in accounting; building advisory services

There is no doubt accounting firms are under pressure for both fees and service delivery. This can be considered disruption. There are a few reasons for this pressure and it will only intensify. Here are some reasons:

* Businesses are questioning the amount of fees they pay annually for compliance services against the perceived value they receive from these services.
* Accounting firms are facing a technology tidal wave that will shift much of the compliance work to ‘bots’ that deliver higher accuracy and cost a fraction of a qualified accountant.
* The complex operating environment facing companies is encouraging them to seek outside expertise to remain competitive and sustainable; unfortunately they rarely look at their accountants to provide such services.

These disruptive changes are compelling proactive firms to focus on developing other capabilities to maintain and grow revenue. The most common focus is on building revenue from advisory services. One would normally think accounting firms are well positioned to delivery advisory services. They may be well positioned, but many lack the competencies needed to uncover opportunities, scope advisory projects and execute the delivery phase for a successful result.

We were engaged to help a firm build an advisory capability without increasing the headcount. Our project including a number of phases that included strategic planning, business model development, behavioural competency assessment, training and coaching. Our process included a small digital transformation with the inclusion of work to improve use of the incumbent information management system, CRM and the introduction of a learning management system, (LMS).

We implemented a learning management system to support our transition strategy as well as sustain competency development across the firm. Below are some of the key outcomes we have achieved thus far with the LMS.

* Communities of practice to foster sharing of ideas, best practices and content.
* Learning linked to performance reviews and career planning.
* Tracking learning and participation in communities of practice.
* Self-publishing content using standard tools like PowerPoint, Sway, audio and video.
* Team publishing by practice teams to share with teams in other locations and colleagues.

Our ongoing strategic focus for the LMS includes:

* Eliminate knowledge drain.
* Replicate the learning across the organisation at lower cost.
* Develop individual learning pathways for advisors based on subject matter expertise and market sector focus.

Two Keys to LMS Implementation Success

Recently, a client asked me about the “lessons learned” from previous LMS implementations with other clients.  As a project manager for a hundred or more LMS implementations, I have identified some common issues with previous implementations that clients consistently encounter on the pathway to a successful LMS implementation.     Even with our internal processes to proactively avert these client issues, sometimes they can have a significant impact on project success.


If you are implementing an LMS in the near future, it may be worthwhile to find measures to deal with these issues to ensure a smoother and successful implementation:

  1. Leaving the IT components as late as possible will put your LMS implementation at risk.

An LMS is a system, after all, and therefore will require involvement from internal IT resources.

  • Typically, the IT tasks involve creating domain names (usually sub-domains of an existing client domain) or an email address to be utilised for the LMS from address.
  • It usually means the purchase of an SSL certificate.
  • It may even involve activities associated with authentication methods (e.g., single sign-on). These items are quite technical and can be daunting.

It is human nature to put off items we do not understand.  Most LMS project implementations are managed by learning and development teams who may need more information on these IT matters.

With a recent LMS implementation, the client PM had set a go live deadline, but had issues in getting their IT department to understand the importance of having an SSL certificate for the LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol). Finally, the client IT department purchased the SSL but did not have the network ports configured correctly to allow the LMS server to make a connection.  It took several days at the last minute and in a rush to sort out the SSL and correct network port configuration by the client IT department.

Imagine Friday afternoon before a go live on Monday (that had been advertised to the whole company) – high anxiety moment in the best of times. Finally, the client network port were finally configured correctly to be able to use the SSL certificate for LDAP. As the vendor company, we had to make a decision as to whether there was enough time on that Friday afternoon to install the SSL for LDAP so that the client could go live on Monday.  The client project manager left work on Friday not knowing whether we were going to be able install the SSL after business hours so that they could go live on Monday. It was a close call.


  • Have IT stakeholder involvement in the project from the beginning.
  • Have a clear list of tasks that your IT department needs to complete
  • Make sure your IT department commits to the timelines and are accountable

A client IT team is crucial for a successful LMS implementation.

  1. Clients sometimes have only a general idea of the business processes and learning workflows, but are not prepared for the detailed understanding required for an LMS implementation.

People usually choose to implement a learning management system to solve issues regarding learning, competency and reporting requirements; among other reasons. A learning management system by its very nature requires business processes and learning workflows to be systemised.  If client business processes and learning workflows are not documented, how can the learning and/or competencies be put into a learning management system?

Sometimes clients start an LMS implementation coming from a mixed-up world of spreadsheets and inconsistent processes or workflows.  When clients do not have documented business process or learning workflows, it is the most common cause of a project cost and timeline blowout.

A recent client with multiple divisions and only using spreadsheets embarked on an LMS implementation.  There was an exhaustive exploration of LMS functionality during the procurement process. The client team had a general idea of their internal business processes and learning workflows without much documentation.  After a significant amount of time trying to map previously stated requirements from the procurement process, it became clear that documenting specific business processes and learning workflows in a detailed manner was required.


  • Do your homework prior to beginning an implementation by documenting business processes and learning workflows
  • In businesses with multiple divisions, decide whether internal business processes or learning workflows are to be harmonised or operate independently
  • Know your data – where it is coming from, who owns it and what you are going to do with it.

Do not expect an LMS implementation will sort out the lack of internal learning workflows documentation; that is a separate piece of work that should be undertaken prior to the commencement of the implementation or add additional time during the implementation for this work. Being prepared will minimise risks associated project implementation costs and timelines.

5 High Level Criteria for LMS Selection

This list is only a simple primer to help you cross check your Learning Management System selection process. We have developed a very detailed requirement analysis for undertaking a selection process for companies researching a new or replacement LMS.

Features are usually front of mind. It is easy to go for the LMS with the most features, however these features may not map to your requirements. Features that are poorly designed and lack usability will only bring frustration to your administrators and users. Be clear on the features and functions you require and then test them out with scenarios. I recommend you ask the potential LMS vendors about their product development roadmap. When you review the roadmap you will be able to identify current gaps (if any) as well as where the vendor is focusing their development resources.

Customer support has a great deal of variability in the LMS world. Most of the larger enterprise vendors have documented service level agreements as part of their licensing documents. There are some enterprise vendors that will also negotiate service level agreements and this may incur additional costs. On the other end of the spectrum are vendors that offer a standard level of customer support and more lengthy response and escalation times. The main point here is to ensure you will get the support level that makes sense for your business and its requirements.

Integration with your existing and future information systems may not be on your initial selection criteria, however it should be. Whether you wish to integrate as part of the initial roll-out or later on, you do not want to be restricted in the future when you need to share data with your payroll, HRIS, CRM or other type of platform. You may also want to integrate using LDAP, SAML, Active Directory etc. These integrations may make populating and keeping your users up to date much easier.

Pricing models in the LMS market are highly variable. For the most part they are based on user numbers but there are vendors that throw other variables in the mix such as number of administrators, number of courses, enrolments etc. You may discover at some point in the future that these extra variables may be restrictive from a cost point of view. If you need to scale your system, it is best to be very clear on what costs are going to be incurred.

Mobile friendly learning management systems are the norm now. A web based LMS should be accessible by learners using mobile phones and tablet devices. The differences here tend to be based on solutions that use apps or those that have an online portal or a responsive design. You want to make sure the user interface for the mobile user is still easy to navigate.

If you are considering your first LMS or seeking a replacement, we can help you out with our research and selection services. We have comprehensive documentation on system requirements, workflows and business case models. We have assisted a wide range of clients in a number of industries select and implement the right Learning Management solution.

  • Mining
  • Construction
  • Banking and Finance
  • Energy
  • Healthcare
  • Government
  • Aviation