This article explains the concept of Means End Analysis or MEA in a practical way. After reading it, you will understand the basics of this powerful Problem Solving tool.
What is Means End Analysis?
Means End Analysis (MEA) is a problem-solving technique that has been used since the fifties of the last century to stimulate creativity. Means End Analysis is also a way of looking at the organisational planning, and helps in achieving the end-goals.
With MEA, it is possible to control the entire process of problem solving. It starts from a predetermined goal, in which actions are chosen that lead to that goal. Each action that is executed leads to the next action; everything is connected together in order to reach the end-goal. In the meantime however, problems may arise. It is often hard to determine where exactly the crux is. With the help of Means End Analysis, both forward and backward research can be done to determine where the stagnation is occurring. This enables the larger parts of a problem to be solved first, to subsequently return to the smaller problems afterwards.
In order for Means End Analysis to be effective, it is advisable to get all relevant actions and intermediate steps leading to the goal in the picture, making them detectable. Additionally, it is handy to be capable of tracking (small) changes, and to measure the differences between the actual and desired state of the individual actions. If this doesn’t happen, there is a significant risk that a mistake or change will have further consequences across the series of actions following it, making it harder and harder to intervene.
Every organisation works with goals that need to be met. Depending on the goal a short term (a week or a month), mid-long term (a year), and a long term (muliple years) are determined. It is nice both for the organisation and for the employees when these goals are successfully met. By making an analysis of the means and the intermediate actions with the help of Means End Analysis beforehand, it is easier to focus and not lose your way. It is a fact that goals don’t just achieve themselves. Based on careful planning, action should be undertaken. Without planning there’s a significant chance for the organisation to head in the wrong direction, deviating from its pre-determined goal.
MEA practical example
To successfully execute Means End Analysis it is advisable to think from large to small; the eventual goal needs to be split into smaller sub-goals, making it overseeable for all parties that are going to work towards on achieving it. When a commercial electronic business has the end-goal to reach a turnover of 15 million euro’s within a year, that is a noble thought. It means that all actions in that year will be geared towards meeting that 15 million euro limit. However, it will only work when it becomes clear what has to be done to meet that turnover of 15 million. With the help of Means End Analysis, the end goal is split into a few smaller goals, which will contribute to the 15 million turnover:
- A specific product, for example the newest smartphone, needs to be sold aggressively;
- A minimal selling price is set, which dealers also must comply with;
- Aside from the newest smartphone, there are some related products that will be go to market as well.
Regardless of the splitting into smaller sub-goals, it will still not be possible for the organisation to achieve a turnover of 15 million. The search for even smaller, more specific steps, aids in them to achieving the end-goal. These sub-sub-goals are translated into executable steps that are deployed by the organisation and used to achieve the original goal of a turnover of 15 million. In case there is stagnation of a problem somewhere, it becomes much easier to find the problem and fix that part of the process. Prior sub-goals are elaborated upon below:
- A specific marketing plan is developed for the smartphone to give publicity to the new product, especially via social media;
- New applications will be developped by the electronic business to be sold as a by-product;
- A special discount is offered to students when they can prove that they are, in fact, registered at an institute of higher education;
- An advertisement will be placed in door-to-door newspapers, whereby a coupon can be used to obtain a substantial trade-in discount for the old mobile phone.
This list within MEA is infinite; there is no limit to the sub-sub-goals that all need to do their part in promoting the product, with the end-goal of a turnover of 15 million euro’s in mind. Means End Analysis is about thoroughly thinking through which steps are needed in order to reach the end-goal.
Additionally, everyone within the organisation gets a reality check, because it shows that even the smallest steps have an impact on the overall goal that has been set. The more detailed and specific these steps are, the greater the chance of success. Everyone within the organisation feels responsible for the execution, which will eventually lead to a successful end-goal.
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Is Means End Analysis applicable in your personal or professional environment? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more suggestions? What are your success factors for achieving end-goals??
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Fikes, R. E., & Nilsson, N. J. (1971). STRIPS: A new approach to the application of theorem proving to problem solving. Artificial intelligence, 2(3-4), 189-208.
- Johnson, A. P. (2005). A short guide to action research. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.
- Sweller, J. (1988). Cognitive load during problem solving: Effects on learning. Cognitive science, 12(2), 257-285.
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