The importance of pruning your (issue) tree

We have several fruit trees in our garden. From the kitchen window I can see two of them; an apple tree and a pear tree.

The apple tree gives us beautiful flowers, fruits and shade. It has also been a great climbing tree for our cats and kids, not to mention a great place to put a swing on. The tree has given us more than we have given the tree, and now is it leaning considerably.

Maybe if we would have done a better job pruning it, it would still stand straight.

Apple trees are not the only trees that need pruning. Issue trees do too.

In the course Driving Strategic Impact, an issue tree is described as a problem solving tool that breaks a problem down into MECE pieces. MECE is short for Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive.

Let's try this tool on the problem we used as an example in The power of a simple problem statement:

How can I use each week the way I want to?

This question, the problem statement, is the root of the tree. The branches are the breakdown of the problem into more manageable pieces. To use the week the way we want to, we can do less of the things we don't want to do and more of the things we want to do. Let's add them as branches to the tree:

These branches are MECE - there is no overlap and they collectively answer the question at the root.

The next step is to break down even more, adding branches until the questions become easy to answer. By answering each question the root problem will eventually get solved as well. I hope the below issue tree makes it easy to solve the root problem.

As I said in the beginning, there is also a pear tree in our garden. When we moved into our more than 100 year old house, we thought the old tree would die within a year or two.

We have now lived in our house for 20 years and the tree is still standing there. It has, however, stopped giving us pears. Maybe it is time to listen to what Lotta, an aboriginist told me some years ago:

"Annika, trees don't live forever. Maybe you should plant a new one."

Whenever we do plant a new tree, we will make sure we prune it regularly so it can be of great use. Just like a well-pruned issue tree.

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