When you encounter a problem in your operations, you cannot just jump in and try to solve it. Each problem requires a certain approach if it is to be solved efficiently. Certainly, this starts with identifying its root cause. Anybody who has worked in a number of projects would agree that many issues might cause problems in a project. It is also important to note that in order to achieve solutions, it is imperative to analyze the issue to gain deeper insight. One of the most common method that individuals use to identify the root cause of a problem is the fishbone diagram.

The fishbone diagram visually displays the possible causes of a particular problem or outcome. This diagram provides clear-cut details about various causal agents to a problem. This implies that it is among the most useful tools used to arrive at solutions. This article will give an overview of the fishbone analysis and elaborate how to use the diagram appropriately.

What Is a Fishbone Analysis?

The fishbone diagram was developed by Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa, and that is why it is also referred to as the Ishikawa diagram or cause and effect diagram. The fishbone diagram is a tool that is used to conduct a cause and effect analysis for a particular problem that needs a solution.

This diagram adopts the shape of a fish’s skeleton. Overall, fishbone analysis entails brainstorming to identify various causes of a problem instead of settling with the obvious ones. Ishikawa initially developed it to be a quality control tool but it also has other uses.

Who Uses Fishbone Analysis the Most?

The fishbone diagram is a useful tool that can be used on a variety of problems, and it can adjust to fit any situation.

  • It is an essential visual tool that can be used in your organization to spark critical thinking.
  • Moreover, the fishbone analysis helps to educate your entire team in problem resolution.
  • Also, they can use it to have their focus on the current issue.

The fact that it uses visuals makes it easier to brainstorm and makes it an essential tool in achieving corrective actions.

When Is the Fishbone Analysis Not Applicable?

The fishbone diagram helps to conduct deep analysis through brainstorming. Therefore, there are specific situations that don’t require its usage. Using the fishbone diagram in situations that do not necessarily require it may yield surprising results and the information you acquire may be irrelevant in handling the problem at hand.

For instance, the fishbone analysis cannot be useful in situations where:

  • The problem at hand is simple;
  • A problem has already been established.

Moreover, if the team size is too small to brainstorm, this is not the most effective tool. The fishbone diagram demands deep and broad analysis, and the problem cannot be identified hurriedly. This implies that this tool cannot be useful if you have a time limit. Also, it will be ineffective if there is poor communication among the team members. Another instance where the fishbone analysis cannot come in handy is if you have a team of experts who can solve the problem at hand without any impediment.

How to Use the Fishbone Diagram in 4 Steps

In order to solve a pending problem with the Ishikawa diagram, there are specific steps in its analysis, and they include the below.

1. Identifying the Problem

The initial step in solving a problem using the fishbone diagram is identifying the specific problem at hand. In defining the problem, you need to note:

  • Its exact nature;
  • The individual(s) involved;
  • The place and time the problem occurred.

You then need to draft the problem in a box on the left-hand side of a sheet of paper, after which you will draw a line horizontally from the box. This will give you a setup that looks like the head and spine of a fish. It serves as the basis for springing ideas.

2. Decide on the Key Areas

The second step in the fishbone diagram entails identifying the key areas of the problem at hand. The major part of the problem could be the people, your equipment, some external forces, or the materials you use. In order to be effective at this stage, you can implement renowned strategies such as the 8Ps of marketing or the McKinsey 7s framework to guide you through the process.

If you begin considering the potential causes of your problem, the aforementioned will most likely appear. But you can add more. For easier workability, it is recommendable to have a maximum of 10 issues. After listing them all, you should draw a line off the spine of the fishbone diagram for every factor, and label each one of them.

business people in meeting

3. Identify the Possible Causes

After you’ve identified the key areas, the third step entails brainstorming the causal agents of the problem that comes with the identified areas. Here, you need to look at each category and list anything that comes to mind, and links with it.

These actual causes should be drawings of shorter lines emanating from the bones of the fishbone diagram. If the actual cause is comprehensive, consider breaking it down into sub-causes.

4. Analyze Your Diagram

In the fourth stage of the fishbone analysis, your diagram should clearly indicate all the potential causes of the problem that you are experiencing.

Based on the intricacy and significance of the problem at hand, you can use the diagram to further determine the causes by conducting surveys. Further analysis will help you to come up with the best corrective actions.

Wrapping Up

The fishbone diagram is an effective tool that is conducts substantial analysis to establish the root cause of a problem and to identify the situation that stops the problem from escalating. Constructing the fishbone diagram is not a hard task. But to do so, you have to follow the four steps above.

This diagram is a visual tool that incorporates system thinking or brainstorming to determine the exact causes of a problem.

The images are from depositphotos.com.