Introducing issue trees: simplifying complex problems

Discover the comprehensive approach to problem-solving through issue trees.

An issue tree, also known as a problem-solving tree or logic tree, is a powerful tool that breaks down complex problems into manageable parts. An issue tree visualizes various aspects of a problem, highlights any interrelationships, and provides a comprehensive understanding of the issue at hand.

Identifying the Problem

Let’s begin with a typical business problem, “How can we increase profits?” At a glance, it’s a simple question, but it conceals an intricate web of factors. Identifying these factors and their interrelations without a structured approach can be challenging.

From Main Problem to Sub-Issues

This is where the issue tree steps in. The first step in creating an issue tree is to identify the main problem.

Following this, we break down the main problem into smaller sub-issues. The amount of sub-issues will depend on your main problem but for this example we just need two: “Revenue” and “Cost”.

Branching Out

Delving deeper, under “Revenue”, we could have sub-issues like “# of orders” and “Average $ per order.” Conversely, “Cost” could branch into “Fixed Costs” and “Variable Costs”.

Understanding Your Issue Tree

By this point, your issue tree provides a clear, structured view of the problem. It allows you to address each sub-issue individually, making the overarching problem more manageable, providing an opportunity to uncover targeted solutions. This structure could also aid in task delegation, with each team focusing on a different sub-issue.


In summary, issue trees transform complex, daunting problems into structured, solvable challenges. Whether you’re dealing with business dilemmas, policy decisions, or personal problems, an issue tree can guide your problem-solving journey, making it both effective and efficient.

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