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Tree Diagram

What is a Tree Diagram

It's a diagram that presents a hierarchical view from the goal/question until a certain level.

A tree diagram is a great visual and thinking tool and is used for a variety of reasons - task mapping, decision, probability tree, to show a logical break down of an argument. 

We will concentrate on the simpler - task mapping usage

It is a task mapping tool for implementation. You start with a goal and then break into detailed actions, that would be required for implementation


See variations below for other uses in continuous improvement and project area

When to use a Tree Diagram
  • To breakdown any goal / task into smaller, manageable pieces 

  • If a goal looks overwhelming use it

  • To align the team with the goal

  • To align the actions with goals

  • Visually present logical linkages of tasks

  • Helps expand thinking and make it real

How to make a Tree Diagram
  • Get the right team members, who know about the work

  • Goal: Start with the goal statement, on a board, flip-chart

  • e.g. Goal statement - could be improvement ideas that you want to implement; any project

  • Means: next comes, brainstorming to find major tasks, which are "means" to achieve it. 

  • e.g. for party planning goal - it could be catering, music, venue... 

  • use affinity diagram technique to arrive at "means" 

  • Stay broad, don't jump into the lowest tasks.

  • Means can be drawn to right / below the goal statement 

  • How: Post major headers are there, you know break down them to the actual task level. Each post it for a "means", goes below / side of it.

  • This would take you to level 3 of the tree ( goal- means - how) 

  • Don't stop at 3, some tasks have more break down levels. 

  • ideally, level 3/4/5 should be in a state to be handed over to a single person/ team to do 

  • If the team present can't break it down due to lack of expertise, the task can be given to another team to break down e.g. if your team is not into technology - you may invite IT expert and then he/she take the box to his / her team to breakdown

  • Once done - review for completeness and logical flow. 

    • have you forgotten something

    • do we really need to do this 

    • we will get the desired results in the time we are thinking

  • Draw lines connecting the tasks

  • Now your tree is completed, handover the tasks to appropriate people/groups and move to schedule planning

  • PDPC: Process Decision Program Chart - its used to consider various risks in implementation and planning their responses/ contingencies. 

    • Reach till level 2 - major tasks (Means) - ask what could go wrong, to make level 3

    • At level 4, write possible, feasible responses

    • choose the most effective responses and update your overall plan

  • WBS: work break down the structure - this used for project planning and trick is to break down to a manageable task level

  • CTQ /KPI drill down tree : Critical to Quality / Key Performance Indicator tree - used to start from a broad CTQ/ KPI Or a customer desire and then break it down to the area/KPIs that has most impact and you want to work on to do the project ( see example)

Example of a Tree Diagram, Sample CTQ Tree
Tree diagram.png
  • Venue and budget pre decided – so they become constraints to work with

  • Invite – can have further breakdown – design and send invite

  • Red ones are risk measures ( refer to PDPC in variations)

CTQ Tree.png
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