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Analysis>Fishbone Diagram

The Fish bone diagram is also known as the Cause and Effect diagram. 

The Fishbone diagram is usually produced during brainstorming sessions to help identify the root causes of a problem (or issue).

This type of analysis is usually used after problems have been prioritised and the problem to be reviewed has been chosen (a Pareto chart may have been to do this  (click here to learn more). 

An example of a simple Fishbone diagram is below. It is called a fish bone diagram because it is meant to look like the bone structure of a fish.

                             Systems       People     Equipment     Communications

                                 Complex     Not trained    Faulty      Ad-hoc


                                         Complex      Damaged      Too high

                              Procedures  Product      Pricing  

The diagram is used to show the most pressing problem on the spine, and the contributing causes are captured on the outward bones of the fish. 

In the above example, the pressing problem was a complaint, which is on the spine of the fish and the 7 category/areas that have contributed to the cause are shown.  Under each of the contributing categories/areas the contributing causes have been identified, which have all played a part in receiving the complaint.

The above example is a simple fishbone. You may find you have more than one contributing cause under each category/area.

To get started, stating the problem in the form of question, e.g. 'Why has the complaint occurred?' will help the team identify the contributing causes to plot on the outward bones. 

You will also need to agree the categories/areas to place at the top of each outward bone.

If you still have difficulty getting started consider the following areas or use one of the lists as your categories/areas:

  • The 6 Ms: Men/people, machines, methods, materials, measures, mother nature        

  • 4 Ps – Places, Procedures, People, Politics

  • 4 Ss – Surroundings, Suppliers, Systems, Skills

See Fishbone template word
See Fishbone template in Excel


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See also

Go to Process Change Knowledge Base
Go to Project Management Knowledge Base

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