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Developing a Problem &

Objective Tree

Jan T.L. Yap

Definition of a Problem

An existing negative situation

NOT the absence of a solution!!!!!!!!

What is a Problem Tree?

A problem tree provides an overview of all

known causes and effects to an identified
Why do we need a Problem

There are often more than one cause to a

problem, and you may not be able to
overcome them all, so it is important to
know if these will impact your project.

A problem tree identifies the context in

which an intervention is to occur, and
starts to reveal the complexity of life.
The Process

A problem tree is best completed with the

project proponent and other stakeholders

You may need anything from a couple of

hours, to half a day or more depending on
the complexity of your problem and the
diversity of stakeholders present.
Steps to undertaking a
problem tree

1. Settle on the core problem

2. Identify the causes and effects
3. Develop an objective tree
4. Select the preferred intervention
How does a Problem Tree
look like?
The Core Problem

A project should have a specific problem

(eg. saving water inside the home) that it
seeks to overcome if change is to occur.

A vague or broad problem (eg. saving

water) will have too many causes for an
effective and meaningful project to be
Identifying the causes and

The core problem is placed at the centre of

the tree.

You then need to consider the direct causes

to the problem. These are placed below the
core problem. Each cause statement needs
to be written in negative terms.
toThe direct effects of the problem are placed
above the core problem.
Identifying the causes and

You then need to consider the causes to

the immediate causes- these are called
secondary causes, and so on. You can do
the same for the effects.

You will likely need to move causes

around, as you decide whether they are a
primary, secondary or other cause.
Lets look at examples
Example Problem Tree
Objective Tree

What is an Objective Tree?

Describe a situation in the future once the
problems have been remedied;
Verify the hierarchy of objectives;
Illustrates the means-end relationships in a
Example Objective Tree
Develop an objective tree

An objective (also called solutions) tree is

developed by reversing the negative statements
that form the problem tree into positive ones.

For example, a cause (problem tree) such as

lack of knowledge would become a means
such as increased knowledge. The objectives
tree demonstrates the means-end relationship
between objectives.
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