Fishbone Diagram, Ishikawa Diagram or Cause-and-Effect Diagram

Fishbone diagram is mostly used in quality control management and business process improvement initiatives. However this practical and very effective business tool can be also applied in any business situation where there is a need for structured categorization, analysis and presentation of the main issues in any opportunities and problems. The fishbone diagram is also known as Ishikawa Diagram or Cause-and-Effect Diagram.

The fishbone diagram helps you quickly to pinpoint numerous probable causes for any problem and result. One of the main objectives of this tool is to be used to structure brainstorming meetings and sessions by keeping numerous ideas and thoughts from many employees straight into practical groups or categories. So you can use fishbone diagram whenever you might want to investigate, analyze and discover possible reasons for any problem and issue you might have in a structured and efficient way.

How to use fishbone diagram

1. When using this tool as a team, first, you need to decide on the problem definition (the impact or result you would like to analyze).

2. Write down the defined problem at the right side of a whiteboard in a simple box.

3. Now draw a horizontal line with arrow pointing at your problem statement box.

4. Next you need to brainstorm and define the major categories or groups of the causes of your problem (this is very important so make sure you define the right categories). If you are not sure how to approach this you can use or at least start your exercise by using the four general fishbone categories: Methods, Machines, People and Materials. This is always a useful start because most of the problems or causes will be a result of the methods or processes used in your business, the equipment or the machines used in your business process, in addition your employees may cause a problem by human errors or not following procedures and finally raw materials can be a cause of a problem as well. As you brainstorm ideas you can categorize them in this main 4 fishbone groups or you can work by analyzing group by group and listing all potential issues for each group. This approach can help you quickly generate many ideas and categorize them in a logical sequence in very useful and practical categories.

5. Now you can use your categories as titles of the main branches in your fishbone diagram.

6. By asking various ‘Why’ questions multiple times in a sequence you’ll easily brainstorm even more ideas.

7. List all of your ideas in their appropriate categories under the branch titles.

The benefits of using fishbone diagram

This simple and at the same time very powerful tool offers many benefits when working in teams. Here are the 3 major benefits and reasons why you should take advantage of this tool:

1. It facilitates brainstorming sessions by helping you quickly generate more ideas and categorize them in the main groups.

2. It offers a structured approach to analysis and decision making. Structured approach combined with brainstorming can reveal many potential issues and solutions.

3. It is a great tool for teamwork because it is a visual representation of your situation and helps everyone in your team to be on the same page. In addition it helps everyone easily communicate, exchange ideas and agree on the main causes of the problems and the top priorities.

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