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Research Division

Family Medicine

QI Tool - Systematic Diagram

The systematic diagram, also known as the tree diagram, maps out in increasing detail the paths and tasks that must be accomplished to achieve a goal. It looks somewhat like an organizational chart or a family tree.

Steps for constructing the Systematic Diagram are:

  1. Agree on the problem statement.
  2. Team members brainstorm ideas that help them better understand the problem. Ask questions such as "What must happen to achieve?" and "What causes that?"
  3. Each item should then be evaluated to see if it is something that you can take action on. You may code the ideas by placing a number or a symbol on each actionable item, a different symbol on ideas that require more information to determine if they are actionable or not, and yet a different symbol on those ideas that you cannot take action on. Look at these thoroughly prior to marking them as not actionable.
  4. Place the problem statement on the left side of the paper or other surface on which you will work.
  5. Locate the cards that are most closely related to the problem to the immediate right of the problem statement.
  6. Brainstorm for new ideas to explain the idea cards placed on the systematic diagram. As the team concurs with these new ideas they should be placed to the right of the idea to which they apply.
  7. Continue to repeat steps 5 and 6 until there are sufficient ideas that, if all are accomplished, a solution to the problem will be reached.

Content copied from NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources

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