IAF Methods

Relationship Diagram

by for . Last edit was about 2 years ago
60 - 120 6 - 10

This process creates a diagram of relationships between identified issues.

DRAFT Pending Declined
Submit for approval

Additional info


To determine the most impactful issue identified in a workshop, to experience deeper understanding of the relationships between issues, and to enable participants to work in complex, multi-directional relationships.


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


  • Whiteboards
  • Flipcharts and markers



Types of participants: The participants need to have an in-depth understanding of the area being worked on.


Identifying issues:
1. State the focus question the workshop is going to answer. It needs to be a challenge or issue the group faces, e.g. "What are the issues we face in working well collaboratively as a team?" It should not be a suggestion hidden as a question but a statement.


2. Use any of several idea generating processes such as brainstorming.

3. Eliminate exact overlaps. Organize.

4. Group the ideas into similar underlying causes. There should be from 5 to 15 clusters. If there are less that 5 the issues are probably too abstract to be useful. If there are more than 15 the issues are probably too specific to be useful.

5. Give each cluster a short 3 or 4 word title and a letter. The letter will be used to identify the cluster in the future. Interrelationship


6. On a separate flipchart or white board put one box or rough circle for each cluster.

7. Put the titles and the designating letter in the boxes.

8. You are looking for cause or influence relationships between issues. For each issue ask, "Which of the other issues does it cause or influence?"  Draw an arrow between the issues. The arrowhead should be at the end of the arrow next to the issue being influenced. Do not use two headed arrows.

9. Continue doing this until all of the relationships are done.

10. Count the number arrows going out from each of the issues.

11. The issue with the largest number of arrows going from it should be the most important in the sense of having influence on the most other issues. It is likely to be a causal issue.

12. At this point a discussion about why this issue has such wide spread influence is good as this is likely to be the key issue.

13. The box that has the most arrows point to it is a key outcome. It can be used to measure changes in the system or as a way of redefining the problem.


Follow-Up Required: Normally, a problem solving workshop or an action plan can be developed once the group has agreed to the key causal issue.

Usual or Expected Outcomes: A deeper understanding of the underlying causes of a complex of problems


Source: Jon Jenkins

Derived from: unknown

History of Development: unknown

Comments (1) ( 5.0  avg / 1 ratings)

Please Log in or Register for FREE SessionLab account to be able to comment or rate.
  • This is a great way to indirectly and visually identify root issues.

    over 3 years ago