What Is It?
Problem tree analysis is a useful tool to help illustrate the linkages between a set of complex issues by fitting them into a hierarchy of related factors. It is used to link together various issues which may contribute to an institutional problem or to dentify the underlying or root cause of an institutional problem.
The identification of a key problem and its effects (ends) and root causes (means).
- A clear and graphically documented understanding of the root/underlying causes of a particular problem impeding the achievement of a particular objective or vision.
- A better understanding of the causes and effects of the problem, from which participants can further explore driving and restraining forces that may be impacting on governance reform.
There is often confusion between a cause and an effect. Care needs to be taken during facilitation to ensure the two are distinguished.
- Flip chart and marker pens
- Sticky notes
- Start with a brainstorming session on the major problems (or potential problems) impeding the achievement of the desired vision. Together with the group, choose a starter problem.
- Draw a tree and write the starter problem on the trunk. If you want to look at more than one problem, then you will need to draw one tree per problem.
- Encourage people to brainstorm on the causes of the starter problem. To ensure that a few people do not dominate, give each person three to five blank cards and ask everyone to write down one idea per card.
- To focus on the root causes of the problem, discuss the factors that possibly contribute to it. Write these causes on sticky notes. This task is made easier by continually asking the question Why? for each of the causes identified. Keep asking Why? until you have reached the basic root cause of the problem.
- Connect the notes with lines to show linkages between the causes. These connections become the roots of the tree.
- Follow the same procedure to determine the effects/impact of the problem and write the primary effects on the branches of the tree.