Tree Diagram

Tree DiagramTree diagrams helps link a task’s overall goals and sub-goals, and helps make complex tasks more visually manageable.  These diagrams encourage team members to expand their thinking when crafting solutions, and allow participants to verify decision-making and assess for completeness at every level of the process.

You can use a tree diagram:

  • When planning to break down a process into manageable parts
  • When investigating a problem to discover the detailed component parts of any complex process
  • When a problem can be broken down in a hierarchical manner

How to Create a Tree Diagram

1. Draft a Goal Statement

Work to create a clear, action-oriented statement through consensus.

2. Assemble the Right Team

  1. The team should consist of action planners with detailed knowledge of the goal topic. Only take the tree to the level of knowledge the team has, and then prepare to hand the tree off for further detail.
  2. 4-6 people are the ideal group size for the Tree Diagram.

3. Generate Tree Headings (Sub-Goals)

  1. Brainstorm major task areas to create the first level of detail. These are the major "means" by which the goal statement will be achieved.
  2. Brainstorm action statements, and sort into groupings.
  3. Choose the header for the grouping; use these header cards as the tree's first-level sub goals.

4. Sketch More Detail

  1. Working from your goal statement and first-level detail, placed to the right, left or top of the work surface, ask of each first-level item: What needs to be achieved to meet the goal statement? Keep repeating this question for each successive level of detail.
  2. Stop the breakdown when the detail has reached an assignable task or the team reaches the limit of their expertise. Most trees are broken out at the third level of detail. However, some sub goals are easier to detect and don't require as much breakdown.

5. Review

  1. At each level of detail, look for anything you may have forgotten.
  2. As the tree breaks down into greater detail, ask yourself: If I want to accomplish these results, do I really need to do these tasks?
  3. As the tree builds to broader goals, ask yourself: Will these actions actually lead to these results?
  4. Finally, draw the lines connecting the tasks.

Tree Diagram

More Information

Icon American Society for Quality. Tree Diagram.
Icon Kansas Health Institute (2008). West Central Public Health Initiative Immunization Quality Improvement Project (page 4; PDF: 1.47MB / 10 pages).


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