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What Is a Ishikawa Diagram?

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Last editedAug 20212 min read

Do you have a business problem that needs attention? If so, you will likely carry out something called root cause analysis, which is the process of discovering the root causes of problems in order to determine suitable solutions. Applying an Ishikawa diagram may prove to be beneficial. Read on to find out why, along with how to create one using our template and simple step-by-step guide.

Understanding Ishikawa diagrams

Ishikawa diagrams are used to identify a problem's root causes. Developed by Kaoru Ishikawa during the 1960s as a way of measuring quality control processes in the shipbuilding industry, the diagram resembles a fish skeleton, with the “ribs'' of the skeleton representing the causes of an event and the final outcome presented at the head of the skeleton. Ishikawa diagrams are sometimes referred to as cause and effect diagrams, fishbone diagrams, cause and effect fishbone diagrams, Ishikawa fishbone diagrams, herringbone diagrams and fishikawa diagrams.

Ishikawa diagrams are:

  • Quick and simple to learn and create

  • A visual technique that is easy to understand and apply

  • Have a long-standing history of use within business

Why should you use an Ishikawa diagram?

  • Every possible cause is presented in an easily digestible way, capturing the associations and relationships among the potential causes and effects.

  • Cause and effect fishbone diagrams provide a great way to stimulate and structure brainstorming, allowing you and your team to explore possible solutions to problems.

  • The framework can help your team to stay focused and ensures that everyone is collecting information in an efficient, relevant way.

How to create an Ishikawa diagram?

Ishikawa fishbone diagrams are utilized for a number of reasons, and by many industries. Before you create your Ishikawa diagram, you will need a whiteboard or flipchart and some marker pens. Once you have assembled these materials, you can follow this simple step-by-step guide:

  1. As a group, correctly identify the problem (effect). Write this, as a statement, at the center of the whiteboard or flipchart. Draw a box around it and then a horizontal arrow running to it.

  2. Brainstorm the primary categories of causes for the problem. You could start with generic headings such as methods, equipment, people, materials, measurement and environment. Write these categories as branches from the main arrow.

  3. Then brainstorm all the possible causes of the problem. Ask your team: “Why does this happen”. Write each idea as a branch from the appropriate category. Causes can be written in several places, if they relate to several categories.

  4. Ask the question again, and write sub-causes branching off the main causes, and continue asking until you generate deeper levels of causes. Layers of branches indicate associations and relationships.

  5. Once you have identified all of your causes, start to think about how you can find solutions to your problem.

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