Fishbone Diagram: The Ultimate Guide to Using Fishbone Diagrams

It is advisable to identify all possible causes of your problem before coming up with a solution. That way, you can completely solve the issue the first time instead of going round and round with the same problem.

There are various tools for analyzing causes and effects, thus helping your business avoid repeating the same mistakes, and fishbone diagrams are one of them. That is why these diagrams are sometimes referred to as cause and effect diagrams.

Fishbone diagrams provide a well-structured approach to help you analyze a problem with many possible causes, enabling you to come up with the best solution. This article looks at what a fishbone diagram is, how to make one, and its uses.

What is a fishbone diagram?

Fishbone diagrams, cause and effect diagrams, Ishikawa diagrams, or Herringbone diagrams are root and cause analysis tools that show the root cause(s) of a particular problem. A fishbone diagram gets its name from how it resembles a fish, with every part representing an entity of the problem.

The head of a fishbone diagram represents the problem while the spine comprises all the possible causes of the problem stated logically. With fishbone diagrams, you can completely solve a problem through a systematic approach of:

  • Identifying why it happened
  • Ascertaining its root cause(s)
  • Ensuring that it has been completely dealt with, and
  • Coming up with solutions to the cause(s).

Every part of the fish represents something

Kaoru Ishikawa, a Japanese organizational theorist, introduced the fishbone diagram in 1968 to help teams identify issues and their possible root causes to come up with viable solutions. The diagram resembles a fish, showing the cause and effect relationship of various factors relating to a particular problem.

The head represents the problem and throughout the spines are the main or root cause categories of the problem. The "bones" branching off the root causes represent other deeper causes interlinked to the categories. Thus, the head, spine, and bones enable the team to visualize the relationship between the causes and effects of a problem.

How do I create and use a fishbone diagram?

Before you start using fishbone diagrams, it is advisable to identify everyone involved with or is affected by the issues you are trying. This way, you will come with a team. For instance, if the problem is organizational, it would be advisable to involve production, manufacturing, sales, marketing, or HR, among other departments.

Once the team is ready:

  • Gather supporting data to strengthen and ascertain any ideas and opinions you might have.
  • It's time to create the fishbone head where you will state and describe the problem regarding what, where, when it happened, and its impact on your business.
  • Formulate the cause categories and represent them on the spine, depending on your business type. For instance, standard categories for a service business are people, processes, policies, and environment.
  • Come up with potential causes and write them branching off the main categories above.
  • Delve deeper and identify the root or specific causes that led to the problem. These will branch off the cause branches or "bones." You can achieve this by continuing to ask particular questions. Every team member is at liberty to give suggestions, which are organized under related causes or categories.
  • Agree on the root causes and come up with solutions to prevent similar problems in the future.

Fishbone diagram software

While it is advisable to draw your fishbone on a white chart, you can use our mind mapping software at MindManager for this purpose. The software helps you create fishbone diagrams easier and faster than drawing by hand or using other common applications like MS Word and MS Excel.

The bottom line

A Fishbone diagram is an excellent tool for solving problems in your business. It helps you and your team dig deeper to understand a problem, identify the root causes, and come up with viable and long-lasting solutions. It saves you time and resources as you work toward achieving your goals and objectives.

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