Imagine that the trunk of the tree is the issue, with the roots - or causes - underneath. The branches are the impact or consequences. Note that in problem trees there may be several roots which lead to many different impacts.
Let's take a look at an example - An organization is looking to address succession planning issues. Focus group meetings might tease out all the root causes of the issue, things like retirement, attrition due to competition, an aging workforce, the fact that they will be expanding into new areas. The branches of the tree would capture the impact of these items, such as 25% turnover expected in five years, empty succession pipeline for certain locations, the need to increase the training budget etc. I've captured this in a quick handdrawing, which is similar to a much larger wall poster you could create with you team/partners.
Here's a terrific blog post from The Evaluation Toolbox out of Australia which provides much more detail about how you might use a problem tree, along with some really useful links to other resources. Enjoy!
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