It might sound hokey to say that “everything is connected.” In business, though, it is difficult to argue against this statement. If you make a change to one part of a system, the reverberations of that change will be felt throughout all aspects of your business. While knowing this, it might not be obvious what the exact root causes of the current issues in your organization may be. To get to the bottom of these causes, there is what is called a current reality tree.

Overview: What is a current reality tree?

A current reality tree acts as a statement of the symptoms that arise from an underlying core problem. In the tree, a sequence of causes and effects is mapped out from the symptoms to the core problem. Most symptoms can be traced to one core problem or conflict. Often, working backward from the undesirable effects/symptoms can reveal the core issue.

3 benefits of a current reality tree

Here are several benefits of a CRT:

1. Identification

One benefit of a CRT is that you can identify the connections between symptoms and root causes.

2. Elimination

When the core problems are identified and dealt with, you will have the elimination of several undesirable effects.

3. Visually simple to grasp

A CRT is mapped out visually in a way that is easy to understand.

Why is a current reality tree important to understand?

Having a clear understanding of current reality trees is vital for the following reasons:

It opens you up to the Theory of Constraints

Understanding a CRT and how it works, is a great introduction to the Theory of Constraints, of which the concept of a CRT is a part. The Theory of Constraints is a comprehensive method for finding the major limiting factors that hinder the achievement of goals. From there, the constraints are systematically improved to the point that they are no longer limiting factors.


When part of a team, a CRT can be an objective and efficient way of getting to the bottom of the root causes of the present issues.


Since a current reality tree helps to focus on systematic and process issues, the spotlight is not on individual team members. Understanding this can help prevent there from being interpersonal issues between team members.

An industry example of CRTs

In a manufacturing plant, it has been found that more end users have been unhappy with their products lately. A meeting is called for all departments, where it is decided that a CRT should be created to identify the root causes.

First off, the scope of the tree is agreed upon. Then, a list is created of the undesirable effects that are currently being experienced. After that, the cause/effect relationships between the undesirable effects and the identified underlying causes are analyzed. Finally, it is all brought together in a cause/effect tree.

Through this effort, it is determined what issues the manufacturing plant needs to rectify.

3 best practices when thinking about current reality trees

Here are a few practices to keep in mind when building a CRT:

1. Concentrate on core issues

Often, we focus on where the stress is greatest and make changes. These, however, can be low-yield alterations since they are only temporarily addressing the symptoms. This can make issues worse in the long term. Instead, really buckle down with your current reality trees to arrive at the core issues.

2. Read it from the bottom up

When you construct a CRT, you will be creating it from the top-down, but reading from the bottom up. At the top of the tree, you have the undesirable effect, then you have the intermediate effects, and finally, you have the root causes at the bottom.

3. Build a chain

A CRT shows a chain of cause/effect reasoning (“if” and “then”) in the form of a graph. A circle or ellipsis represents an “and”. You create a chain of cause/effect until you come to the root. If there are two or more things that lead to an effect, they are linked with an ellipse. From there, you focus on the root causes and not the intermediate ones.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about current reality trees

What is a future reality tree?

A future reality tree is different than a CRT in that an FRT is not focused on the current state. An FRT allows for mapping out future expectations by introducing injections. These injections of new ideas will ideally change undesirable outcomes in the current reality to desirable ones in the future.

What does UDE stand for?

When it comes to current reality trees, a UDE is an undesirable effect. A CRT begins with the identification of these.

Is there a preferred shape when constructing a CRT?

Current reality trees have no preferred shape. They just spring to life as you work through the underlying cause/effect to a problem that seems to account for the bulk of the observable symptoms.

Current reality trees as a tool in your business

Knowing how to create a CRT is a great step toward more systemic thinking about how your business. Systemic thinking provides you with a variety of tools and methods for solving problems in your organization. With current reality trees, future reality trees, and the theory of constraints, you already have a great foothold in this type of thinking.

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