Marie Kondo, an author and ‘decluttering expert’, in her reality television show called Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, visits American households that need organizing and decluttering. She categorizes every household item and then asks the participants whether that item ‘sparks joy’ or not. She disposes of those that don’t make the participants happy.

Kondo’s entire decluttering process is unique but extremely structured, which makes the exercise efficient. Similarly, structuring your problems can help you break them down and look at possible solutions to be able to make the right decision. Let’s look at one such effective way that can help you with decision-making—the issue tree method. 

What Is A Problem Analysis Tree?

One of the core principles of problem-solving is to define the problem at hand. But did you know that you can structure your problems to gain a deeper understanding? Structuring problems can help you identify the barriers and find solutions more efficiently. One of the tools you can use to analyze problems and structure them is the problem analysis tree.

Also known as ‘issue tree’ or ‘logic tree’, a problem analysis tree helps create a visual representation of the problem. It breaks down large and complex problems into smaller and distinct issues. While logic trees can be broken down using a top to bottom (vertical) approach, some trees are broken down using a left to right (horizontal) approach.

An issue tree gets its name from its structure. It starts with one problem statement which can be broken down into smaller issues and sub-issues. These smaller, solvable problems look like they’re branching out of the primary node or the main problem statement. No matter how complicated a problem may be, the issue tree analysis makes it manageable and easier to solve.

Examples Of Problem Or Logic Trees 

Here are some issue tree examples that’ll show you how effective this tool is for problem-solving:

  • Example 1:

As a product developer, you’ve added a new feature to your application but there have been low adoption rates. You take this problem statement and look at two possible causes—customers aren’t aware of the new feature or they don’t use it despite having the awareness. You further analyze these major causes by dividing them into sub-problems. Suppose you try to understand why customers are not using the feature despite being aware of it. You may figure out that customers may not have tried it yet or didn’t like it after trying it. In this way, you can continue to ask questions until you exhaust all possibilities.

  • Example 2: 

Imagine a client is facing a profitability issue. Ideally, a management consultant would split the problem into two parts: revenue and costs. Revenue will be further divided into ‘price per unit’ and ‘number of units’. Costs can be split into ‘fixed’ and ‘variable’. McKinsey and other major management consultancies often use this issue tree. It is also known as the ‘profitability framework’.

How To Use An Issue Tree

The next time you’re solving a problem, use the problem tree technique to logically arrive at solutions. Here are some steps you could follow:

  1. Define your problem statement or questions at the beginning. Remember that an issue tree is most effective when you can answer the ‘how’ questions or those that can simply be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For example, “will a new marketing initiative improve outreach?”

  2. Start to think about all the possible solutions when you identify the main issue. Once you figure out all the possible solutions, divide them using ‘branches’. Write one solution beside each branch. For example, if you have three possible solutions, make three branches and write them down.

  3. Check to see if you can elaborate on any of those two possible solutions. If you pick one, evaluate whether that can open any courses for action.

  4. Continue to split solutions into branches until you’ve exhausted all possible outcomes or decisions you can think of.

Conclusion

The problem tree analysis tool helps develop a multi-pronged strategy to deal with different aspects of any problem. Businesses use it to a great extent but you can use it to solve personal problems as well. It can be as simple as trying to figure out why a particular party plan went wrong.

Harappa Education’s Structuring Problems course is designed to help you face your challenges with confidence. You’ll learn the art of structuring problems by systematically breaking them down for solutions and manageable tasks. You can also learn more about problem-solving using Logic Trees. Sign up so as to avoid getting intimidated by challenging problems. 


Explore topics such as Problem Solving, PICK Chart, How to Solve Problems & Barriers to Problem Solving from our Harappa Diaries blog section and develop your skills.

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