Cause and Effect Fishbone (Ishikawa)

The Ishikawa diagram, more commonly known as the fishbone diagram (because of its shape) or the cause and effect diagram (because of its purpose) is an excellent tool for ensuring that there has been a comprehensive consideration of all of the potential root causes to an issue before a group focuses in on a likely subset.

The problem or effect is specified in the ‘head’ of the fish (a box on the right of the diagram) and participants use the themes (titles at the ends) of the ‘bones’ of the fish to brainstorm possible causes to that effect. The structure of the diagram makes it easy to see where particular areas of thought may have been neglected or over emphasised.
Many unstructured approaches to solving problems tend to go round in cycles as one pet theory after another is tried. The Ishikawa diagram helps to place all the pet theories in context from the outset, and to establish a more methodical process for identifying the real issue.
Three different types of diagram are available below: Blank (with blank legs to accept whatever themes you choose); 4M (which takes the standard themes of Manpower, Materials, Machinery, and Method); and PEMPEM (Plant, Equipment, Materials, People, Environment, Methods).
To use the iFrame, upload it to your virtual meeting, or print it out and place it on the wall in your physical meeting. Then invite people, individually, or in syndicate groups, to add possible causes to the legs of the fishbone diagram (by typing them in in a virtual meeting, or adding post-its in a physical one).
Once a sufficiently wide range of potential causes has been identified, it is a matter of researching the causes to gather sufficient data/evidence to prove or disprove them.
However, undertaking this research for all of the listed potential causes is both inefficient and impractical, and so it is best to begin by refining the list down to a few preferred suspects. This can be done by voting with sticky dots (or the stamp tool in a virtual meeting) or via discussion. The preferred causes can then be tested, and if they fail to show a relationship, and second wave of possible causes can be identified, and so on.
A very useful variation of the Ishikawa diagram, is to flip it 180 degrees horizontally, placing the head on the left of the diagram, and then to write in the head an intended change or solution. The legs of the diagram are then used to explore the potential implications (good and bad) of implementing that solution (different coloured pens or dots help identify which are which)
Called the Solution-Effect diagram, or Reverse Fishbone, it helps people think through the potential consequences of change, and to plan for them: maximising and leveraging the positives, and avoiding or mitigating the negatives. As with the normal Fishbone, it is useful to prioritise where you will focus your attention within it, rather than try and do everything.
The following links provide more information on the tool
You can download a PowerPoint template of the tool below.
The template can be printed off (at any size) for use in Physical meetings, or uploaded to suitable meeting or collaboration software so that it can be used in virtual or asynchronous meetings.

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