Prep Time:
Time to run:
30 min

Problem tree analysis template

A way of exploring the causes and effects of a particular issue

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Use this template to map causes and effects of a central issue in order to better understand the chain of connected circumstances that led to the current situation. The problem tree analysis provides a structured way for a team to reveal concerns, discern causes from symptoms, and potentially frame problem statements in a new, better way.

A problem tree analysis — also called a situational analysis — provides a structured way for a team to reveal concerns, discern causes from symptoms, and potentially frame problem statements in a new, better way. Commonly used for understanding the problem in design thinking, problem trees are used for finding solutions by outlining the root causes and effects of a problem.

The problem tree analysis template helps with:

  • Understanding complex problems
  • Identifying cause and effect relationships
  • Aligning with other stakeholders
  • Providing a direction for problem solving and decision-making

How to use the problem tree analysis template

Identify a problem statement

Start off this exercise by brainstorming over what the overarching problem the team is facing.

Assemble your stakeholders

Depending on the problem statement, your stakeholders might be your immediate team, end users of a service or product, customers with buying power, or somebody else entirely.

Document the causes of the problem

What are the root causes of the problem? Start by discussing each cause, one-by-one, adding them below the line in the roots section as you go.

Cluster the outputs together 

When similar causes are mentioned, cluster them together and label the clusters with a theme. Altogether, documenting and clustering the causes should take about 20 minutes.

Repeat the process for branching effects

Repeat the process you just completed with the causes, just with effects. What are the effects and consequences of the problem? Document the effects, cluster them together, and label them with a theme.

Prioritize and establish next steps

Discuss and prioritize which causes and effects to focus on, then create a plan of action to address the root cause.

Tips for running a problem tree analysis exercise:

  • While the problem tree method mostly focuses on direct causes and effects, what are some indirect causes the team can come up with?
  • Some effects the team ideates will be routine, and some may be rare. Try adding tags to the sticky notes to indicate what type they are.
  • Try holding a vote to help decide which root causes get prioritized.

How to create a Problem tree analysis template

Create better problem tree diagrams with the features you need

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Sticky notes & text

Sticky notes & text

Add ideas, action items, and more as a sticky note or text box — then change the colors and cluster to identify patterns and new solutions.

Anonymous voting

Anonymous voting

Gain consensus and reach alignment quickly, either in real time or asynchronously.

Tags on sticky notes

Tags on sticky notes

Customizable labels make it easy to find, organize, and categorize your work in a mural.



Keep collaboration moving forward with a timer to structure and time-box activities.

Summon collaborators

Summon collaborators

Easily direct everyone’s attention to a specific part of the mural — no screen sharing required.

Video meeting integrations

Video meeting integrations

Seamlessly add visual collaboration to meetings with Microsoft Teams, Webex, and Zoom integrations.

Problem tree analysis template frequently asked questions

What is a problem tree analysis?

How do you make a problem tree?

How are problem trees used in design thinking?

LUMA Institute

Template by LUMA Institute


LUMA offers acclaimed in-person training, custom innovation programs, and a unique digital platform (LUMA Workplace), used by innovators in over 70 countries. Leading organizations around the globe rely on the LUMA System of Innovation — a practical, flexible, and scalable approach to Human-Centered Design.

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