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Fishbone diagram

Identify the potential causes of a problem — focusing on people, process, equipment, materials, and environment

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About the fishbone diagram

A fishbone diagram, also known as an Ishikawa diagram or a cause-and-effect diagram, is a visual tool used to explore and understand the causes of a specific problem or challenge. Used in the context of product management, it can be helpful for working through problems related to product adoption, performance, or user experience.

The diagram's structure encourages the systematic exploration of different categories — typically people, process, equipment, materials, and environment. The visual nature of the diagram makes it easy to communicate complex relationships between elements to stakeholders — helping to facilitate better decision-making and alignment.

Adjust the diagram to suit your team's needs and situation. Then share the whiteboard and encourage open dialogue — so you can make changes together and prevent similar issues in the future.

How to use

Consider multiple dimensions to uncover the root causes of a problem.

  1. Define the problem Clearly articulate the problem you want to analyze in the text box within the head of the fish. The more specific, the better.

  2. Add details Identify the major categories or branches that contribute to the problem. Common categories in a fishbone diagram include people, process, equipment, materials, and environment. However, you can customize for your situation.

  3. Brainstorm potential causes For each category, capture specific factors, actions, conditions, or influences that might be contributing to the issue. These are the "bones" of your fishbone diagram.

  4. Explore solutions Prioritize the causes based on their likelihood and impact. Share your diagram with the team to determine which causes are most significant and identify the actions you want to take next.

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