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Fishbone Diagram: What It Is & How It Is Created

Oct 04, 2022
Image for fishbone diagram

To effectively solve a problem, you must understand its cause. As a result, students, researchers, and business leaders often turn to root cause analysis to understand the root cause of their problems.

The fishbone diagram is an excellent example of a root cause analysis tool. A well-drawn fishbone diagram will not only help you understand your problems. It will also ensure you don't waste valuable time and resources.

We will provide all the essential information about a fishbone diagram. You will learn about its usage, benefits, and how to create it.

What Is a Fishbone Diagram?

Also known as the Ishikawa diagram or cause and effect diagram, a fishbone diagram visualizes cause and effect. Managers use it for identifying, brainstorming, and breaking down the possible causes of a problem or defect.

As its name suggests, the diagram looks like a fish's skeleton. The fish's head starts on the right and represents the problem, while the fish's bones extending to the left are the causes of the problem.

We design the bones in a way that splits the causes of the problem into different categories. The major categories of causes are the ribs, while the root causes extend from the ribs. You can have as many categories as you need.

After being popularized by Kaoru Ishikawa in the 60s, fishbone diagrams are among the seven basic quality tools today. Also, they are used in many industries but mainly in product design and quality control.

The Purpose of Fishbone Diagrams?

Unlike most problem-solving tools, the fishbone diagram isn't primarily used to identify the causes of current issues. Instead, companies use it to prevent problems.

Additionally, variation can hinder quality and efficiency in any organization. You should always follow a standard process for every product or service you deliver. Once you alter this process, you will also be altering the end product.

Use a fishbone diagram to figure out elements that may cause variations in your process and potentially contribute to problems in your product.

Here is a beautiful template for Greiner's growth model curve.

Factors Causing Variation

As we mentioned, a fishbone diagram can help you identify factors that can alter your process. Though these contributing factors are numerous, experts usually split them into the following categories:


This contributing factor refers to the tools, computers, facilities, and equipment used for operation. These items may fail to deliver to perform as expected as a result of technical or maintenance issues.


This represents the process you follow to deliver a product. If your process isn't streamlined and standardized, it can result in a problem.


Material refers to the items you need to deliver your product. It consists of raw materials, consumables, and information. When you mismanage materials, it will affect the quality of your end product.


This refers to your KPIs, data, inspections, and other measures of your process. Inconsistencies in measurements can affect the quality of your output.


Manpower represents the people involved in your process. Your workforce needs the required technical expertise and experience to deliver quality products and services consistently.

Mother Nature

Mother nature represents the environmental factors affecting your business process and can be manageable and unmanageable. Examples of environmental factors include storms, landslides, earthquakes, etc.

The 6 Ms are mostly used in manufacturing, and you can add or remove factors depending on your unique situation. Attach them to the spine of your fishbone diagram and start brainstorming with your team to develop the possible root causes.

Additionally, the causes of variation differ in some industries. Hence, you may need different contributing factors if you aren't in the manufacturing industry.

For marketing, you will need the 8 Ps:

  • Product or service
  • Place
  • Price
  • Personnel
  • Promotion
  • Process
  • Proof
  • Performance

For the service industry, you will need the 5s:

  • Systems
  • Surroundings
  • Suppliers
  • Skills
  • Safety

Check out this company profile presentation template.

How To Develop a Fishbone Diagram

You can create a fishbone diagram for your business in four steps:

Step 1: Problem Statement

Start your fishbone diagram by drafting your problem statement. Your team must agree on the problem statement, and it must be clear. Clearly state how, when, and where the issue occurred.

Remember that your problem statement should go into the head of the fish (right-hand side of your screen or board). After drawing the fish's head, you can draw a line to the left-hand side (the spine).

Step 2: Brainstorming Session

Hold a brainstorming session with your team to identify the possible causes of the problem. You may analyze the factors we listed earlier to see if they affect your process.

Attach a line to the spine (ribs) for each possible cause you find and label it.

Step 3: Identify the Root Causes

The main part of your brainstorming session begins here. Your team should think of the root causes of the factors listed in the previous step.

Once you have root causes, attach them as branches to the ribs. The skeleton will look complete after this step.

Step 4: Analyze Your Structure

After adding all the possible causes of the problem, it is time to analyze the diagram. Look at each potential cause closely to see if it truly affects your business. The five whys strategy will be helpful at this stage.

Benefits of Using Fishbone Diagrams

Fishbone diagrams offer several benefits. We have listed some of them below:

  • It clearly and logically displays cause and effect relationships
  • It gives room for brainstorming
  • It ensures that the team considers all the possible causes of a problem
  • It helps to effectively solve issues by identifying their root cause
  • It helps to identify problems in business processes

Download Free Fishbone Diagram Templates

You don't need to struggle with a fishbone diagram maker before creating your fishbone diagram. Save time and energy by downloading a free fishbone diagram template from Simple Slides.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a fishbone diagram?

A fishbone diagram is an analysis tool that depicts the potential causes of a problem.

What are the six categories in a fishbone diagram?

The six categories in a fishbone diagram are manpower, method, machine, measure, material, and mother nature.

How does a fishbone diagram work?

A fishbone diagram mimics a fish's skeleton. The head represents the problem statement while the remaining bones represent the possible causes of the problem.

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