Problem Family Tree

Problem Family Tree

The Problem Family Tree Activity

Problem Family Tree is an interesting exercise to help team members see the real problems they face and their causes. Seemingly small problems that mix with other small problems to create bigger problems.

Give each team member a piece of paper. Instruct them to write down, at the top of the sheet, a problem they have at work.

Make sure to tell them it shouldn’t be directed at a specific person. These should be complaints about procedure, product, or some other non-human problem they’ve observed or believe exists.

Next, have them write below that, leaving a slight space, two things they think causes that problem (again, not mentioning specific people but finding a way to focus on systems, ideology, or procedures that people use).

Draw a line from the two ideas up to the main problem, much like a family tree structure. Then have them break down those two ideas further, two for each, as far as they can go. The idea is to figure out what small things have led to the big things.

The exercise could stop here, allowing the team members to simply enjoy personal discovery, or their results could be discussed as a group to see if there were small underlying problems that popped up on multiple problem family trees.

Moment of Reflection
  • Did they discover many causes that generate the biggest problem?
  • Were you surprised by the causes you wrote?
  • Can they take immediate action on one or more causes? For example?
  • Are there causes on which they cannot act? And what could they do to mitigate its effects?
  • Does this exercise help you discover more opportunities for improvement in your conflicts?
See also  Agora Square

The topics of this publication: argumentation, reflection, critical thinking

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