The Tree Diagram


The Tree Diagram is an analysis tool for breaking down a broad or top-level goal of a team into many levels of increasingly detailed and specific actions that need to be done in order to achieve the stated goal.  As its name implies, the tree diagram consists of branches that specify the actions required at each level of detail. These branches further branch out into smaller branches that break down these actions into more detailed or specific actions.  The branching out continues until the desired level of detail is reached.


The tree diagram is good for: 1) defining specific 'real-world' actions to support any given goal; 2) ensuring that all actions being pursued by a team are tied to the primary goal of the team; 3) training team members to come up with the appropriate steps to achieve a higher goal; 4) facilitating the monitoring of the progress of various activities since these are organized at different levels that have their own sub-goals; 5) revealing the 'true' complexity level of a goal by systematically presenting the actions and resources needed to attain that goal; 6) making the distribution of assignments or responsibilities to team members easier.   


To construct a tree diagram, the following steps may be followed: 


1)  assemble the right team once the goal has been chosen by management;


2)  state the goal of the team and write this goal statement in a box at the crown (topmost part) of the tree diagram;

-  as an example, the goal statement in Figure 1 is aimed at increasing the awareness of personnel about electrostatic discharge (ESD) and its effects;


Increase ESD Awareness Among Employees

Figure 1. Example of a Goal Statement for a Tree Diagram


3)  generate the tree diagram's major headings, which are the major sub-goals supporting the primary goal; write these headings in boxes held by branches coming out of the primary goal; 

-  the major headings of a tree diagram are usually generated through brainstorming

-  going back to the previous example, major sub-goals supporting the primary goal stated in Figure 1 may include the following: a) launch an ESD information campaign; and b) create an ESD training infrastructure; 


4)  break each major heading into several sub-goals (or actions) of greater detail; again, these sub-goals (or actions) are usually generated through brainstorming; write these sub-goals or actions in boxes held by branches coming out of the respective major heading;

-  in simple cases, the third level of headings (or the headings supporting the major sub-goals) may already contain specific actions;


5)  continue breaking down each level into greater detail through brainstorming until the level of specific actions are reached for each sub-goal;


6)  polish the tree diagram by subjecting it to team review(s) then finalize it;

- see Figure 2 for a simple but complete tree diagram corresponding to the goal statement in Figure 1.



Figure 2. Example of a simple Tree Diagram for the goal in Figure 1


See Also:  Matrix Diagram Affinity Diagram




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