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What is a Fishbone Diagram?

By University Alliance
What is a Fishbone Diagram?

Resembling the skeleton of a fish, the Fishbone Diagram is an analysis tool invented by Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa, a Japanese quality control statistician. Sometimes referred to as a Cause-and-Effect Diagram, the Fishbone Diagram provides a systematic way of looking at effects and the causes that create or contribute to those effects.

Purpose of a Fishbone Diagram

The purpose of the Fishbone Diagram is to help teams categorize the many potential causes of problems or issues in an orderly way. It also helps in determining root causes. Essentially, this analysis breaks the “whole” into “parts.” Fishbone Diagrams are helpful in clearly breaking down the relationship between a topic and all of the possible factors that are related to it. When used as a Cause-and-Effect Diagram, a Fishbone Diagram can represent the amount of influence of each cause.

How to Create a Fishbone Diagram

Creating a Fishbone Diagram involves four main steps. Within those steps, “bones” are used to indicate the impact of the causes (the weight of the impact is measured in the size of the bones that are drawn). For instance, the larger bones closer to the head of the fish represent a big impact, while small bones further away from the head have a smaller impact. The four steps include:

Determine the Head of the Fish

  • The head of the fish should be the topic you are analyzing. When creating a Cause-and-Effect Diagram, the head will be the effect.

Determine Related Factors to the Head

  • Factors are causes related to the topic or the effect. One option is to list the causes by which have the biggest influence on the head.

Determine the Possibility of Grouping Factors/Causes into Categories

  • It might be possible to group factors into categories such as materials, people, environment or types. Categories should be determined by the topic or effect being analyzed.

Draw the Diagram

  1. On the right side, write the topic and draw a backbone arrow from left to right.
  2. Draw vertical arrows connecting the categories to the main backbone arrow. When creating a Cause-and-Effect diagram, if you listed the causes by those that have the biggest influence on the head, the larger bones that are closest to the head of the fish have the greatest impact and the smaller bones that are further away indicate causes that have less impact.
  3. If you’re grouping factors or causes, draw horizontal branching arrows for each vertical arrow connected to a category. This helps compartmentalize the individual factors related to the category.

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Category: Business Administration