In a group, this process is used to depict different causes and their effects.
- A chart board
Setting: A chart board is needed.
Types of participants: Any types of participants can be involved in this process.
Time needed: The optimal time needed is not established.
Ideal conditions: There are no special conditions needed.
Pre-Work Required: There is no work that needs to be done beforehand.
Facilitator personality fit: The facilitator should be able to encourage the group to work on a problem together, without placing the blame on each other.
1. The facilitator or the group need(s) to decide on the effect that is to be examined. For this, Operational Definitions should be used in order to ensure understanding. It should be remembered that the effect might be either positive (an objective) or negative (a problem). Focusing on a positive effect, meaning a desired outcome, will hopefully lead to an upbeat atmosphere, encouraging the participation of the group, and is therefore preferable. However, sometimes negative effects have to be discussed, so here the facilitator should ensure that the group is focusing on the causes, enhancing group participation to find a solution to the problem, instead of placing blame.
2. In the second step, the effect will be illustrated on a chart board. In order to create the Spine, the facilitator needs to draw a horizontal arrow, pointing to the right. To the right of the arrow, a box needs to be drawn, in which the effect (the outcome) will be described.
3. Now it is time to establish the main causes (categories) that are contributing to the effect, that will be examined. Some commonly used categories are the 3Ms and P (Methods, Materials, Machinery & People) or the 4Ps (Policies, Procedures, People, Plant). Another category that might be of great significance is Environment.
Now, the categories that have been selected should be written left to the box both, above and below the spine. Again they should be written in a box, and then an arrow is drawn towards the spine.
4. Next, each major branch needs several subbranches, symbolizing causes and factors that contribute to the cause. Then, fill in the details for each cause, and if one applies to more than one major cause, list it under both.
5. At this point of the process more detailed levels of causes should be added and sub-organized under the related causes or categories. This can be encouraged by asking a series of Why-questions.
Here it might be useful to break the diagram into smaller ones, in case one branch has too many subbranches. Any category can be taken as a new effect.
6. As a last step, the diagram should be analyzed in order to identify the causes that warrant further investigation. In this analysis the group should look for causes that appear repeatedly, as they might represent root causes. Identify in which branch(es) there are the most problems, but most importantly the facilitator (and group) should identify the causes they can take action on (possible solutions).
Follow-Up Required: There is no follow-up required.
Usual or Expected Outcomes: The outcome should be the solution to a problem, or at least the causes for the problem/objectives should clearly be identified.
Potential pitfalls: If the participants are blaming each other for problems, instead of looking for solutions, the process does not work.
How success is evaluated: The process is successful, when a problem is when the causes for an effect are found, or the group is at least closer to the solution.