Decision Trees

A more efficient tool for problem solving?

Ok you got me, this isn’t going to be the most exciting topic…

But decision tree’s are a fantastic tool to use to get troubleshooting information to the people who need it most.

In my background in engineering and operations, often when things go wrong, the go to is a massive manual which often is laid out terribly and written in the most odd and old fashioned ways possible. (Seriously why can’t technical literature be written for the 21st century instead of the 19th???)

The end result is that we either ignore the damn thing and rely on experiance to tell what we think happened and what we think will solve the issue, or we keep going with the manual.

In either case lots of time will be wasted head scratching, and most likely even more time will be wasted messing around trying often aimlessly to solve the issue.

What if there was a better go to tool we could use in those situations?

The decision tree

The good news is there is a better tool for those situations, its called a decision tree, and many people have seen them, hidden in the back of a manual.

Normally in these cases they refer you page x or procedure 9.3d, which again just wastes time. Its a classic case of a brilliant tool being used incorrectly and then ignored by the masses because it appears to be useless.

Used correctly this is the most powerful tool for problem solving that operational teams can use, its simple, easy and effective.

Like any other visual tool it lays the information out in an easy to read way and gives clear instructions to move onto the next step.

This saves, time, money and confusion which can lead to more expensive mistakes.

How does it work?

The decision tree when used correctly, gives various options or decisions which are automatically made for you as you go through the questions being asked, in the example below its simplified for effect:

Simple visual and easy to follow, the decision tree can be adapted to anything from starting a car to starting a space shuttle, all it needs is the key questions on it and decisions people can easily follow as they work through the potential solutions.

They can be elaborate and created in fancy software, they can be made easily in power point or word, and I have even had the faxed to me hand drawn on the back of a beer mat.

What are the Benefits?

The benefits of the decision tree, are the ease of use and the time saving, versus dragging though documents or worse relying on experiance.

They can also greatly speed up the learning process for new starts, or someone new to your operations.

No guess work, eliminates other mistakes which can be made trying to solve a problem using a complicated manual or just experiance blindly.

Laid out as a visual guide so very easy to read.

Final Thoughts

These are a go to tool for myself and my teams nowadays, and have revolutionized the way I work.

Especially for those times where you are tired or under alot of pressure, having this to hand can be a god send.

If you have never used a decision tree before, give it a go, it might just revolutionize the way your work.


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