THE SECOND YEAR SCENE : GMSC SERIES – Creating an Issue Tree

Each spring semester 42 full-time Goizueta Business School students participate in the Management Practice elective, Goizueta Marketing Strategy Consultancy (GMSC). GMSC pairs student teams with corporate clients to solve pressing business challenges.  The course culminates in a case competition judged by marketing and consulting leaders from across the country. The course is taught by Dr. Reshma H. Shah, Assistant Professor in the area of Marketing.  This is the second post in a series about the experiential learning experience at Goizueta from one of the six team’s perspective about creating an issue tree.

After going through the rigorous process of defining what question needs to be solved for this project, we have come to a very challenging part of the consulting process – structuring the problem.  There are many ways to approach a problem but the way we found most effective is through an issue tree.  An issue tree literally looks like a tree with our main question at the start and additional questions branching off of it.

While our project entails a lot of discussion around defining the scope of our problem and how to narrow it down into an area that we as a team can tackle, what we are finding is that the issue tree is taking a lot more time than anticipated.  However, we see the issue tree as a great tool to get us thinking about where and what we need to begin our research.

A good issue tree looks pretty, but it also demonstrates the time and effort a team has put forth to really get at the heart of the problem. During this process of developing our issue tree, we did redefine our problem as we began to see our project’s interworkings. The issue tree breaks down our key question into sub-questions and continues to go deeper until we get to a question that has an objective answer. By debating and developing every question in the issue tree, we are able to clearly see the direction our project is going in, which will help us complete a comprehensive qualitative data collection in the next steps.

The issue tree has helped us to understand that sometimes we do not ask the right questions or maybe the questions are not asked in the right way, but that the necessary questions are attainable.  After many drafts and countless hours of debate, we feel that we have a solid tree that has leaves and branches to bear the fruit – that will guide us, even with some tweaking along the way, throughout the GMSC process.