How to Use an Ishikawa Cause-and-Effect Diagram

In any business decision, there are a variety of factors to consider. This is especially true when you’re trying to figure out the root cause of a problem. That’s where an Ishikawa cause-and-effect diagram comes in. This handy tool can help you identify all of the potential causes of a problem so that you can develop a more comprehensive solution. Let’s take a closer look at how it works.

What is an Ishikawa  Cause-and-Effect Diagram?

An Ishikawa cause-and-effect diagram, also known as a “fishbone” diagram, is used to visually display the possible causes of a problem. It gets its name from its resemblance to the skeleton of a fish, with the main “bone” representing the problem and the smaller bones representing the various potential causes. These causes can be subdivided into categories such as people, environment, machines, methods, materials, or measurements.

How to Use an Ishikawa  Cause-and-Effect Diagram?

Now that we know what an Ishikawa cause-and-effect diagram is, let’s take a look at how to use one. The first step is to identify the problem that you’re trying to solve. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to list out all of the potential causes of that problem under their respective categories. For example, if you’re trying to figure out why your team’s productivity has decreased, some potential causes could be inadequate training (people), a noisy work environment (environment), or outdated equipment (machines).

The next step is to assess each potential cause and determine whether or not it could reasonably lead to the observed problem. This will help you narrow down your list of possible causes so that you can focus on those that are most likely to be responsible for the issue at hand. Finally, once you’ve identified the most likely causes of the problem, you can start developing solutions.

Keep in mind that an Ishikawa cause-and-effect diagram is just one tool that can be used to root out problems and brainstorm solutions. As such, it’s often used in conjunction with other tools such as Pareto charts and 5 Whys analysis.


If you’re looking for a root cause analysis tool that can help you identify all of the potential factors contributing to a problem, then an Ishikawa cause-and-effect diagram may be right for you. By breaking down the various elements involved in any given issue, this handy tool can help you develop more comprehensive solutions. Give it a try the next time you’re facing a business challenge! Better yet, try our 30-day free trial of MindMapper and use the built-in Ishikawa diagram to find the root cause.

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