Limitations of Complete Progress

Chris Lambert's Avatar

Chris Lambert

28 Dec, 2015 06:12 PM


Say I have a goalscape with the center goal as Make Pancakes. That then has a subgoal called Cook Pancakes. And that has a subgoal called Buy Ingredients. And that has a subgoal called Make List of Ingredients.

Rather than "Make Pancakes" having three sub goals on the same horizontal level, this creates a vertical hierarchy.

Make Pancakes
Cook Pancakes
Buy Ingredients
Make List of Ingredients

Right now, if I complete progress on the lowest item (Make List of Ingredients) it completes progress for all items. In order to stop this, there are two solutions.


First is make the sub goals on the same horizontal level.

Make Pancakes
Cook Pancakes, Buy Ingredients, Make List of Ingredients


The other method is to add a second component to each of the vertical levels.

Make Pancakes
Cook Pancakes, Pointless placeholder
Buy Ingredients, Pointless placeholder
Make List of Ingredients, Pointless placeholder


Neither of those solutions is all that ideal. Having pointless placeholders is inefficient. And putting things all on the same horizontal level is problematic in that it implies a different logic structure.

A vertical hierarchy typically implies cause and effect. I complete the bottom task, then I complete the task above it, then I complete the task above it. There's a sense of climbing up the tasks, completing one unlocks the task above.

A horizontal hierarchy loses that sense of laddering. We could look at the tasks as being ordered horizontally, sure, but it could also be that tasks are independent of one another. Like, for a hot dog:

Hot Dog Components
Bun, Meat, Mustard, Ketchup,

Technically, you could read that as moving from Left to Right in terms of "laddering". Except it doesn't really matter if you have the bun first or the meat first, and it doesn't matter if you add mustard first or ketchup first.


Is there a better way to combine laddering goals in a vertical structure and how complete progress works?

The real world example that I'm using this for is tracking progress on a novel. I have this laddering structure:

Novel 2
Submit Final Draft
Format Final Draft
Final Draft
Review Edits
Submit for Edit
Working Draft
Rough Draft

Currently, if I complete progress on "Outline" it marks the entire novel as being complete.

Thank you!

  1. Support Staff 1 Posted by Richard Parslow on 28 Dec, 2015 07:10 PM

    Richard Parslow's Avatar

    Hello Chris

    Thanks for your post!

    The simplest answer, which also supports the way we work through a project with subgoals that must be completed in a certain order, is the first method you mentioned (make the sub goals on the same horizontal level).

    The subgoals have to be completed in a certain order (time-based), so it makes sense to arrange them clockwise around the parent. Note though that this ordering is not a requirement in Goalscape: if subgoals are not dependent on each other you can complete them in any order you like.

    In a real-world project, where subgoals that contribute to a goal may take more than a day, you can also set the start date of the second to be the same as the end date of the first, the start date of the third to be the same as the end date of the second and so on. And you can include other subgoals (at the same level) that are not part of a dependent set – see the first screenshot attached.

    I understand what you are saying about the 'implied cause and effect'; in this case though, in order to achieve the main goal you have to complete all the subgoals. So having them all at the same level is an appropriate way to represent the sequence – and you gain the benefit of using the Importance attribute to set your priorities. The way the progress aggregates in Goalscape also means that you have an accurate idea of the completion of the parent, according to the subgoals' relative importance (which could be directly related to time or budget allocated).

    There is a detailed explanation of how to accommodate binary tasks (those that are either not done or done) in the Tracking Progress section of the online Help (click the '?' at top right) under Help > Goal details > Tracking progress.

    Goalscape is a way to represent (visually) a breakdown of large goals into their manageable smaller parts. If a goal has only one 'part', that subpart should be mentioned in the goal name itself – or in the Notes.

    For your novel-writing project, you can use a similar structure, with the subgoals arranged clockwise around the main goal (see second screenshot attached).

    Note too that you can also use Goalscape to represent the structure and plot of the novel itself! See the blog post from professional screenwriter Andrew Wetmore here:

    Thanks again for taking the time to post here.

    Have a magnificent 2016!


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