Problem tree analysis: using a tree structure to analyze a problem


Problem Tree Analysis

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Use the “Problem tree analysis” template to analyze a problem structurally, reviewing all its root causes, as well as its direct and indirect effects. This workshop is based on discussion. Encourage team members to be proactive by prompting interaction and debate. Pick the team’s brains, and ask them to break down and prioritize the elements causing the problem, so you get the bigger picture. This stage paves the way for the next one: finding solutions. 

Why compare it to a tree?

When you look at a tree, you first see it as a whole. If you look more carefully, you will see its branches. If you now concentrate on the tree for a while longer, you will be able to make out the features of each individual branch, and the color shades of the leaves. However, you can’t see the roots unless you dig down into the soil, yet they are vital to the tree. 

Both in our professional and personal life, when faced with a problem, we initially tend to focus on the problem itself. This holds us back. Saying the magic word “abracadabra” won’t help solve it. You need to properly analyze it to determine the tools you’ll need and to draw up an action plan. You have to be aware of the problem’s consequences, as well as its causes. Finding the causes can be quite a long process as it requires in-depth investigation. That’s where the tree metaphor comes into play.

The branches and tree leaves are the offshoots of the problem (immediate and secondary effects), and the roots represent the causes, which can run more or less deep. In fact, we often talk about the “root causes” when investigating the source of a problem and trying to find a solution. The circumstances in which the problem arose, the sequence of events that has led to the current situation, the adverse consequences that are already being felt and those that are yet to come...A problem includes all of those things. The tree structure is a very visual and way of ironing everything out. 

When should you launch Problem tree analysis workshop?

This workshop is ideal for critical situations, ahead of the problem-solving phase. Conducting a problem tree analysis gives you all the tools you need to ask the right questions and then find appropriate solutions. Working as a team gives you a significant advantage: people have different viewpoints on a given situation; they’re not affected by it on the same level, and they don’t necessarily know the whole background...Together, you can get an overarching view of the situation, which is what you need to make progress. 

Problem Tree Analysis template |Klaxoon

How can you use the Problem tree analysis template to work as a team?

First, you need to identify the problem. Then, get the team to join Klaxoon’s Board, a collaborative digital whiteboard with unlimited space. You will find detailed instructions on the template. If you are working remotely, just start a Live session, the built-in videoconferencing tool. Engage the team in a discussion about the problem’s causes. Everyone posts their ideas in the dedicated workspace. The same procedure applies for the problem’s consequences: everyone posts ideas as the debate develops. You can also use “likes” to highlight the ideas that members think are the most appropriate, and then decide together which ones to focus on.

What are the advantages?

The problem tree analysis can help address complex problems carefully, one step at a time, making use of the team’s collective intelligence to distinguish between the causes and the consequences. Identifying and understanding the problem as a team leads to a joint solution. This reinforces the team spirit because everybody feels on board. Organizing a workshop with the “Problem tree analysis” template is a good introduction to a problem-solving challenge. Try it with your team!

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