Discover the Ishikawa Diagram and learn how to map problems and solutions for your business – WAU

The Ishikawa Diagram is a tool that helps to identify the root causes of a problem, analyzing the factors involved in a process. This graph is also known as the Cause and Effect Diagram, Fishbone Diagram or 6M Diagram.

In the business environment, quickly identifying the causes of a problem is essential to avoid losses, correct errors and reduce friction between teams.

In this sense, however experienced the managers are, it is not recommended to rely only on personal opinion or intuition. After all, an organization can never be held hostage by “thinking” to make decisions, right?

Knowing this, we prepared this post about the Ishikawa diagram, a business analysis methodology that allows investigating the origins of problems or bottlenecks. By applying it, you will be able to optimize your time and implement rapid improvements in your process management. Follow along to understand better!

What is the Ishikawa Diagram?

ishikawa diagram

Also called Cause and Effect Diagram, Fishbone Diagram or Diagram of 6Ms, the Ishikawa Diagram is a tool that helps to identify the root causes of a problem, analyzing all the factors involved in the execution of a process.

The problem, also called an effect, can be any unwanted behavior or result. For example, the constant absences of an employee or the specific complaint of an important customer.

The name of the methodology comes from its creator, the engineer Kaoru Ishikawa, who gave rise to the visual graph in 1943. In the following decades, the analysis was refined to help teams arrive at the real causes of problems faced in the processes.

One of the merits of the Ishikawa Diagram is that it can be used by anyone, from the “factory floor” employees, through the marketing professionals, to the board. Because it is a visual tool, it is widely applied to facilitate team organization and reasoning.

The diagram starts from the premise that each problem has a specific cause. Like this, eliminating the root cause means fixing the problem itself. Therefore, the method strives to test and analyze each suggestion of cause made by the team of employees.

Main applications

Whenever there is an unwanted situation in your company, the diagram can be applied. In any case, its main use is the identification of causes of dispersions and non-conformities.

An example of this is when an industry is faced with a batch of defective products. How can we explain that, among so many items already produced, only a few of them have escaped the standard? In these cases, the diagram helps to find explanations for the “mystery”.

In addition to this application, the Ishikawa Diagram is also commonly used to:

  • see a situation in a more comprehensive and systemic way;
  • visualize not only the main cause, but also the secondary causes of a problem;
  • find solutions to problems based on the resources that the company has;
  • generate continuous improvements in processes.

Major advantages of the Ishikawa Diagram

The Ishikawa Diagram has several benefits for organizations, and can even be used in conjunction with other methodologies. Among these advantages are:

  • process improvements;
  • identification of causes;
  • hierarchy of the causes found;
  • greater visibility of problems;
  • visual record, facilitating future analysis;
  • team involvement in quality management;
  • organization of ideas;
  • team work.

You may be interested in these other management and business content!
Business plan: what it is and step by step on how to make one
Balanced Scorecard (BSC): what it is and how to apply this framework
Canvas: what it is, how to assemble it and downloadable template
Learn how to apply SWOT analysis in Digital Marketing with these 5 tips

How to apply the Ishikawa Diagram or Cause and Effect Diagram?

Now that you know what the Ishikawa Diagram is and know its benefits and applications, it’s time to check out how to apply the method. Below, we share a step by step to facilitate. Follow!

1. Define the problem

The first step is to define the problem (effect) that will be analyzed. At this point, it is important to be specific, defining the problem objectively. It is also essential that this issue can be measured, otherwise it will be difficult to determine whether the cause has been eliminated.

2. Create the fishbone

Draw a horizontal line. At the right end of that line, include a rectangle and write the effect (problem) inside it.

Then draw strokes perpendicular to that horizontal line. Each of the perpendicular features will be a category of causes. The original version of the Ishikawa Diagram has 6 types of causes, the so-called 6Ms:

  • method: sequence of standardized actions that are used to execute the process;
  • machine or equipment: several problems are due to errors or faults in machinery. Within this category, the causes can range from lack of maintenance to improper use;
  • labor or people: lack of qualifications, demotivation and imprudence by employees or suppliers can be the cause of many problems. The influence can also come from the family, for example;
  • materials: it can be the raw material used in the process or any other fundamental material;
  • measure: is the category of decisions and actions taken previously. They may have changed the process and given rise to the problem;
  • environment: it is the context that can favor the appearance of problems. Pollution, heat and lack of space are some examples.

3. Gather the team and analyze the causes

This is the time to raise all possible causes for the problem to arise, taking into account the structure of the 6Ms. The suggestion is to brainstorm with the participation of people involved with the issue, as well as professionals from other areas, with different views and perspectives.

Investigate any points that come up, even those that seem unlikely. A question that often helps is “Why is this happening?”. Write each of the causes within the 6 categories.

4. Make subgroups

Analyze each category of causes and create subgroups. For example, when investigating an employee’s absences, within “machine” or “equipment”, there may be the subcategory “car”. Within this subcategory, in turn, there may be other causes, such as “engine”, “tires” etc.

5. Highlight the main cause

After completing the diagram, highlight the main cause that generated the problem. Depending on the case, there may be more than one.

6. Plan actions

Did you find the main reason? Now, it is necessary to think about solution possibilities that are within the reach of the team. After analyzing different alternatives, create an action plan to resolve the issue discussed. At that time, define responsible and set deadlines for each activity that will be done.

As we have seen, the Cause and Effect Diagram can be used in different business contexts, regardless of the company’s area of ​​activity, be it an industry, a Digital Marketing or advertising agency.

In fact, nothing prevents you from using the Ishikawa Diagram to find the cause of problems in your personal life, solving various unwanted situations. As with any tool, the more you practice your application, the more natural your use will become.

And, since we are talking about methodologies for diagnostics in companies, take the time to check out our full article on how to do a SWOT analysis!