When you were a kid did you ever play 20 questions? It was a fun game to help pass the time. It basically worked by everyone agreeing on a topic (person, thing, activity, etc.) One person would pick something based on the topic. Everyone else playing the game would ask the person questions for a yes or no answer. A few years ago, an electronic game of the same name, and played the same way was a hit in the marketplace as a holiday gift.
Today, I promised you forests of decision trees, and here I am talking about games. The neat thing is, the 20 questions game is the same decision matrix which is used in the decision tree. You ask a series of questions for which there can only be a yes or no answer. You do need to verify the answers as you go. This, though, is often the easiest, and smartest way to discover root cause, or help you decide on a course of action.
If you look at the trees, each junction has two branches. A red branch which we will call the ‘No’ branch, and, a green branch which we will call the ‘Yes’ branch. It is always good to draw your decision tree as you go.
You can do this in your notebook, on a whiteboard, on your computer, on a tablet, or on your smartphone, depending on what type of software you have loaded. I like to put mine either in my tablet or in my notebook so I can refer to the decision tree later.
Remember, a no is not always the end of a line of questioning. You can explore a no route, although it is often easier and more correct to follow the yes trail. By doing so, you stay on a positive path. If you do this, ask the questions in a way that yes leads you on, and no helps you to eliminate something. In that case, and it is the case I recommend, your tree will look like the one on the right above.
Let’s run a practice decision tree just to test one out. This is something that happened to me last night, and although I did not draw the decision tree at the time, these are the steps I took.
Last night the pencil to my iPad did not work, I was frustrated. It cost hundred dollars, and I was in no mood, nor prepared to buy another one. So this means I had to figure out why and make the pencil work again. This decision tree will be the one on the right, not the forest on the left.
- Is the pencil not working properly? Yes, not working
- Is the pencil charged? Yes (I charged the pencil for 15 minutes to ensure it was charged.)
- Is the charge port working? Yes (I could charge the iPad)
- Does charging the pencil external to the iPad work? No (tried it, this means it’s not the charging port)
- Is there an explanation in the pencil guide online? Yes (I followed the instructions)
- Does the pencil now work? Yes
I learned new things last night. I also learned not to be the cliché of the guy who reads the instructions only as the last step. Next time, I will move reading the instructions further up the list.
Whether I do it consciously or subconsciously, I like the decision trees.