IAF Methods

Fishbone Analysis

by for . Last edit was almost 2 years ago
180 + 6 - 15

A process to help identify and understand the origins of problems, issues or observations.

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To study a problem/issue to determine the root cause. To analyse the possible reasons why a process is beginning to have difficulties, problems, or breakdowns. To identify areas for additional research. To experience the capacity to find the root causes of a problem.


You will be able to upload attachments once after you create the method.


  • markers
  • flipchart and white board



Setting: Fish Diagram on large white board or seveal flipchart taped to gether.

Number of participants: 6-15

Time needed: 3 hours

Pre-Work Required: Prepare blank fish diagram

Type of Facilitator-Client Relationship: High trust needed

Level of Difficulty to Facilitate (to be deleted during review): Facilitation skills required



Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa, a Japanese quality control statistician, invented the fishbone diagram. It is some times called Ishikawa diagram. The fishbone diagram is tool to systematically look at an issue and the causes that contribute to those issues. The design of the diagram looks much like the skeleton of a fish. Therefore, it is often referred to as the fishbone diagram. See the diagram page.


1. Draw the fishbone diagram on a large white board of several flipcharts taped together.

2.Agree on the focus question / issue.

3. Write the problem/issue to be worked on in the "head of the fish".

4. Brainstorm issues that "cause" the issue.

5. Organize them into 6 to 12 categories.

6. Label each "bone" of the "fish".

7. For each of the categories create subcategories and put them on the smaller bones of the fish.

8. To generate more and deeper insights into the causes ask, "Why is this happening?"

9. Continue until no more useful information is coming out.

10. When an adequate amount of detail is in each of the major categories, look for items that show up in more than one category. These are "most likely causes".

11. Prioritize them. The first is the most probable cause.

12. Go to the solution stage.


1. What were the stages of this exercise?

2. What were you surprised by?

3. What did you learn?

4. What will it take to make this useful for the company?


Follow-Up Required: problem solution generation process normally follows this.

Usual or Expected Outcomes: A list of the most likely and the most probable cause.


Source: Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa

Derived from: unknown

History of Development: unknown

Alternative names: Ishikawa diagram; root cause analysis

Comments (1) ( 4.5  avg / 2 ratings)

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  • A classic method. You can find templates to use this online.

    over 2 years ago