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What Is a Means-End Analysis? & How to Use It

Read Time: 10 mins

It’s tough to know how to track progress and identify key milestones. The solution is to apply a means end analysis (MEA.) 

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Learn to apply means end analysis problem solving in this article.

If you’re tasked with a project, you know it takes several steps to bring to life. But at first, it can seem overwhelming to map out the path to success.

Means end analysis problem solving drives creative solutions. Most big goals worth having aren’t easily achieved. And without an action plan, you’ll likely never get there. But with means end analysis problem solving and this article, every challenge becomes solvable!

What Is a Means-End Analysis? (And When Should You Use One?)

Here's the secret of why means end analysis problem solving works: it uses a final result as a starting point.

Think about that for a moment. When you tackle most projects, you might be tempted to start by tackling the problems in your path. It's easy to let your mind go directly to the obstacles. That's a surefire way to become overwhelmed by what stands between you and your goal.

But what if we reversed that model? A means to end analysis does just that. It starts with a focus on your goal, then helps you see the steps needed to get there. Means end analysis problem solving is equally useful for project tracking and management.

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Means end analysis focuses on an ultimate goal with sub-goals to drive you forward. (Image generated with Placeit.)

A means to end analysis first considers your objective, the goal that you have for your task or project. Then, it helps you illustrate the journey to the goal. Means end analysis uses actions (means) to tell you how to achieve your goal (the end). 

Means end analysis uses actions (means) to tell you how to achieve your goal (the end).

Means end analysis is very useful. You should use it any time you’re working on a project that requires many steps to complete. The analysis has been popular since the mid-twentieth century.

Often, you’ll means-end analysis used in computers and engineering to help study decision points and actions. But remember, means end analysis works well for projects in any field. The ultimate goal of means end analysis is to spark creativity.

Here are principles to keep in mind while you learn about means-end analysis. There are many project management approaches. Here are principles that set means-end apart:

  • Actions taken along the way to the goal are labeled “sub-goals.”
  • Sub-goals take the form of specific action items that can be delegated to members of your team.
  • These sub-goals are set to enable tracking so that you monitor implementation progress.
  • Goals are best paired with specific metrics. These metrics help you monitor progress by quantifying actual results with data. 

This is the true value of means end analysis. If you need to figure out how to reach a goal, try means to end analysis to plot your journey. And if you already know the specific steps, use MEA to fuel creativity and accountability for you and your team.

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Means end analysis problem solving gives you sub-goals for easy tracking. (Image source: Envato Elements.)

Finally, don’t consider means end analysis as a limited tool. It supports projects and goals large and small. It’s essentially a tree structure that can contain as many branches and nodes as you need. It can evolve over time.

You may identify subgoals that later grow their own sub-sub-goals. MEA is a flexible tool that you can adapt perfectly to fit your needs. It’s a powerful, easy-to-use decision tool to use in 2022. 

How to Create a Means-End Analysis

Once you’ve decided to use means to end analysis, it’s time to build out a visual example. There are many tools that work for means end analysis problem solving. One efficient way to do this is with a PowerPoint deck. The app is easy to work with, and helps you share your MEA design with others. 

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Infographic PowerPoint is a premium template that works great for means end analysis.

For this example, I’ll use the Infographic PowerPoint template from Envato Elements. Elements has thousands of premium PPT templates to choose from, with unlimited downloads for a flat rate.

The tips in this section were written using macOS and Office 365. If you’ve got different operating system or a different version of PowerPoint, your steps may be slightly different.

1. Select a Process-Focused Slide for Means End Analysis

For our means end analysis example, let’s begin with slide #27 in the deck. This one is arranged as a process map. Notice the series of linear steps connected with an arrow. You can use this layout to create and devise means end analysis with a series of sub-goals or actions.

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Slide #27 can be converted into a stunning means end analysis graphic.

This example has six different steps. Remember, the last “step” is actually your goal. It’s the objective of your project. Thus, it’s a good idea to start your MEA design by filling in the goal.

2. Fill In Your Goals

Notice on the slide here that there's already text in place. A hallmark of premium templates, this is placeholder text. To customize the means end analysis slide, you’ll swap out the placeholders for your own content.

To do that, click into a text box and select the contents inside. Then, start typing over them with your keyboard. The existing words will vanish, replaced with your own. Type in your goal and add some optional supporting text to add context. 

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Means to end analysis steps can be added by typing in your own text.

With the end goal in place, you’ve laid the foundation for your means end analysis.

3. Set Your Sub-Goals

Now, it’s time to build out the bulk of the analysis by identifying and labeling sub-goals. Remember, sub-goals are the building blocks of our overall strategy. Each one is a milestone (“mean”) necessary for your goal (the “end) to be achieved. 

It’s easiest here to start back at the beginning. Means end analysis problem solving takes you through an entire project, from start to finish. The first sub-goal should be the first step you must take to begin the project.

As an example, let’s add step #1 in. For simplicity in this example, I’ll label the first node Product Design. Again, this is done by swapping out the existing text for your own words. Think of what this is saying: the first thing we must do to meet our goal is design a new product. 

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Work through your project in sequence, adding sub-goals needed to achieve the goal.

Again, sub-goals will vary in every means end analysis. The trick is to brainstorm every part of what makes your project successful. Every step that must be taken to succeed should be identified and labeled as a subgoal.

4. Add Your Metrics

As you can see below, it’s also helpful to add metrics. These help track progress in every subgoal. After all, without a clear objective how do you know when you've achieved a sub-goal? Fill in your subgoals on your analysis template until you’ve completed the full layout.

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The finished analysis graphic, ready to share with your team.

With a premium template like this, you can craft an amazing means end analysis quickly. Your finished product is a stylish design to share with your team to lead a successful project. 

Tips for How to Approach a Means-End Analysis

You’ve seen how a means to end analysis helps make decisions and guide teams through projects. But to succeed with them, it pays to embrace some ground rules. These are general techniques that help you create a useful means end analysis. Keep them in mind as you work.

1. Understand Your Stakeholders

The first tip is to engage with stakeholders. This is most important if your project requires the input of multiple team members. Even if you’re the project manager, it might be tough to think of every sub-goal needed. So be sure to talk with key stakeholders from each functional area involved in the project.

Learn more about stakeholder analysis with the help of this tutorial. It can be a helpful precursor to preparing your means to end analysis.

2. Be Specific

General sub-goals are okay, so long as they represent categories. Painting sub-goals with a broad brush can lead to missing key details.

Sub-goals can have sub-sub-goals. These are the tactical details that help you execute your strategy.

3. Keep Your Means End Analysis Up-To-Date

Never think of a means end analysis as static. The analysis will evolve as your goals and projects evolve. Some sub-goals may become unnecessary. Or you may realize new actions to take along the way.

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PowerPoint is just one example of a tool that makes means end analysis diagrams flexible.

Revisit the analysis and update the lists of actions and sub-goals as they change and develop. The PowerPoint-based approach in this article helps you to keep your analysis flexible.

4. Collaborate

Remember to use means end analysis as a motivator. In the scope of a giant project or task, individuals may lose sight of their importance. The MEA demonstrates how every piece of the project fits together.

Finally, don’t forget to share your analysis. It’s much more than a theoretical exercise. In fact, your MEA is a project roadmap useful for sharing with all stakeholders. It drives accountability, translating to results and successful goal attainment. 

5. Implement Your Means Analysis

Always consider means end analysis as a way to improve processes. What the activity really does is drive a complete look at goal attainment.

Question underlying assumptions. Are you building in sub-goals that aren’t actually needed? Use the analysis as an opportunity to streamline your workflow.

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Pro tip: use a team meeting to assign employees to own and track metrics. (Image source: Envato Elements.)

A cohesive analysis shows that goal attainment is impossible without attaining each sub-goal. No sub-goal alone completes a project. But no goal can be completed without completing all sub-goals. Make sure to share your analysis with team members to give them credit for their hard work.

With these tips and ideas, your means end analysis problem solving will be more effective. Plus, you’ll work more efficiently as you create your analysis and pursue your goal. 

The Best Source for Means to End Analysis PowerPoint Templates (With Unlimited Use)

There are many tools that you can use to create means to end analysis plans. As you saw in this tutorial, PowerPoint gives you a flexible way to update your analysis as it evolves. On Envato Elements, you tap into the best PowerPoint templates, perfect for means end analysis.

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Envato Elements - one subscription, unlimited downloads.

Envato Elements is a project manager's best friend. With unlimited access to graphics, web templates, video footage, and so much more. Besides presentation templates, these assets are all included for one flat rate.

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Browse through templates that include means to end analysis diagrams on Envato Elements.

Join Elements today and get access to everything. You're on your way to great project management with the help of the Elements library.

Need templates for project management, but don't want a subscription? GraphicRiver is the perfect choice for you. Download a single design and start your project immediately, no subscription required.

Start Your Means End Analysis Problem Solving Now

Now, you've got one more tool in your belt to problem solve. You can see that means to end analysis is a unique way to break down a problem into goals and sub-goals. By applying this approach, even large projects become manageable.

Remember: this format helps you focus on your ultimate goal. That keeps you motivated. Follow the steps and example that you saw in this tutorial today, and you're on your way!

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