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Tree Diagram

The Tree Diagram is a tool to systematically map out the full range of actions necessary to accomplish a primary outcome and each related sub-goal. It creates a linear picture, with increasing detail, of the expected outcome. 


This Gateway tool©  is an effective planning tool and will structure the activities of the team. 


Tree Diagram

Tools needed: flipchart paper, sharpie type markers, post-it type notes.


  1. Create an outcome statement. Discuss and agree on the specific desired outcome, what you want to accomplish.

  2. Identify the goals that will achieve the outcome. Brainstorm, what needs to be done that will result in realizing the outcome. Goals are stated so that you know when something is done (ie. The Quality training is provided to the staff)

  3. Brainstorm the "actions" necessary to achieve each goal. Develop statements of activity, something to be done. This is how the goals will be achieved.

  4. Review the chart, discuss the details and arrive at consensus.


    The Tree diagram is a product of linear thinking. Each level of detail is determined by moving from left to right, and asking "What needs to happen to achieve this outcome, goal or action?"


Suggestions for Facilitators:


  • This tool may take a moment for the audience to grasp. Participants with linear thinking ability seem to catch on quickly.

  • Use sharpie type pens and post-it type notes. They can be seen from a distance and can be rearranged as needed.

  • Keep asking "What needs to be done to achieve this outcome or goal.

  • Focus on one goal at a time, while identifying the actions. Do not be concerned with the chronological ordering at this time. Some actions may appear in other goals.

  • Encourage action statements, with verbs and details.

  • Two levels of actions are usually enough to initiate the planning (goals and actions for the outcome).


    Participants usually start off slow and then pick up momentum as they become familiar with linear thinking. Most audiences appreciate the....."picture of what to do"....."it's organized now"....."doesn't seem overwhelming"....."I can see the whole picture now".....


For more information on the use of this tool and/or a brief interactive exercise to demonstrate the tool,



    Additionally, we have developed a tool called the PLAN-IT©. It is a  portable tool that will have you creating plans in minutes.

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