About the fishbone diagram template

Definition of fishbone diagram

A fishbone diagram is a discovery tool most managers use to identify the reasons for failures, defects, and variations within a business process. It generally breaks down, in layers, the root cause, which significantly contributes to a specific effect. The diagram is also called the cause-and-effect analysis, one of the main tools utilized during a root cause analysis.

Whether it is the traditional drawing of the diagram on whiteboards or sketching its skeleton on digital boards, the bottom line is that this diagram promotes efficiency and improved problem-solving processes.

History and development of fishbone diagram

Some call the fishbone diagram as Ishikawa diagram to honor a Japanese engineering professor, Kaoru Ishikawa. There are reports that the diagram has existed since the 1920s; however, Ishikawa popularized it and pioneered quality management techniques in the 1960s. Ishikawa was also notably responsible for implementing the quality management procedures for Kawasaki shipyards. Along the way, the fishbone has been helpful for most companies, not only for root-cause analysis but also during the design stage to prevent problems.

Importance of fishbone diagram in problem solving

The fishbone diagram is essential in problem-solving as it allows businesses to identify specific reasons for failures or defects of certain business processes. Along the way, your team can develop ways to address these concerns. Since the diagram contains several categories, you can also identify which of the stages of the process needs urgent resolutions.

Components of a Fishbone Diagram

The main problem statement

The main problem refers to the specific issue your team is facing. It pays to discuss this among the members to ensure everyone is on the same page. For every fishbone diagram, there must only be one issue to address. It would be confusing to cater to two problems in one chart.

Major categories/branches of potential causes

These categories refer to the factors which may be part of the problem. Like how your team decides on the main issue, everyone must agree on the significant branches you will put into the fishbone diagram. They could include systems, equipment, human resources, and external forces. They are primarily general ideas since you can specify them with sub-categories as you go along with your fishbone diagram template.

Sub-categories/branches of potential causes

Sub-categories are placed under each major category. These are the possible causes of the problem related to every main branch. You can expect multiple insights for your sub-categories; hence there must be thorough brainstorming to ensure you input only the essential details which can support the major category. The main and sub-categories must have an evident relationship to move forward with the diagram.

The fishbone diagram template

The fishbone diagram template looks similar to a fish. The problem (the effect on the illustration below) is at the fish's head, facing right. Meanwhile, the causes then extend to your left, which serves as the bones of the skeleton. The major reasons are those branches. The sub-categories are the small branches under each major cause. You can branch off to as many layers as you wish. Ensure they are still related to the main problem to be useful during the analysis.

Steps in Creating a Fishbone Diagram

Identify the problem or issue to be addressed

Ensure that team members agree upon the problem. The problem you identified will serve as the head of the fishbone diagram. Besides identifying the problem, you can add details like where and when the issue occurred. It is more specific.

Determine the major categories of potential causes

The backbone of the diagram is where your major categories will be. You can add lines or boxes branching from the backbone to represent the cause categories. Most businesses focus on the six Ms, including workforce, material, mother nature, measurement, method, and machine. You can have more main categories if your team finds it necessary.

Identify and list the sub-categories of potential causes

The sub-categories serve as the branches of the main cause categories. You can list all elements related to every category and discuss with your team which to include in the diagram. Remember that you can delve deeper and add mini branches under the sub-categories. All ideas must be considered during this phase before deciding what to place on the fishbone diagram. This means you can gather as many insights as possible; ensure they relate to the leading causes. Assigning colors or shapes for every main reason would be fitting to avoid confusion during data collection.

Draw the fishbone diagram

You can draw your fishbone diagram template using shapes, images, and stickers. Remember that the diagram must look like a fish. There are diagramming tools online that you can use. They are more flexible as you can incorporate different colors for your main causes and the branches. Most are even editable, making modifying some points in the diagram easier when needed.

The shape and orientation of your diagram will not matter - whether it is upwards or sideways, so long as they follow the structure of a fish. You can even use lines to complete the diagram.

Analyze potential causes and determine the root cause(s)

After filling the fishbone diagram with all the necessary details, your team must examine the potential causes of the diagram and find the root cause of the problem. As you would know, these things are easier said than done since each member might have varied opinions and ideas.

There needs to be brainstorming before deciding the root causes of the problem at hand. Along the way, you can generate better resolutions to fix the concerns involved in your fishbone diagram.

Develop solutions and recommendations

Identifying the root causes is one hurdle, while coming up with solutions and recommendations is another agenda you must address. It pays to be more specific as you develop solutions to the issues. This is to ensure your business will not be addressing the same problem in the future. It is also like solving the issue and preventing it from recurring. You can save time, effort, and other logistics.

Benefits of Using a Fishbone Diagram

Improved problem-solving skills

Since the fishbone diagram template is your guide to problem-solving, there will not be assumptions and guesses. As a result, your team will have a strategic approach to solving issues concerning the organization. As you would know, these issues might be about business processes, so the earlier you detect and resolve the problem, the better it will be for your business operations.

A better understanding of the problem and its potential causes

As you expand the branches under the main causes, you will better grasp the factors affecting your main concern. Additionally, the fishbone diagram template gives you a clearer picture of the issue allowing your team to address it accordingly. In short, the diagram will have no vague insights since you can make your illustration as specific as possible.

Enhanced communication and collaboration among team members

The fishbone diagram template promotes collaboration, and along with that comes healthier communication among members. You know that creating the diagram is not a one-person show. Each member must actively contribute to develop the best possible insights for the diagram. Besides the team members, the use of this tool welcomes better interaction and collaboration with other departments. This applies explicitly to broader issues that might need inputs from different areas within the company.

As you consult other sectors within the company, your organization will experience a more harmonious working environment.

Improved decision making and problem resolution

Teams will not be second-guessing the recommendations they must perform to solve the problem at hand. You can expect better decision-making once you grasp your fishbone diagram entirely. The solutions and recommendations are specific enough to address the issue accordingly.


The fishbone diagram has guided companies in resolving issues in various organizations for decades. Other businesses use this tool to prevent future problems affecting business operations. Regardless of your one's purpose, the fishbone diagram template makes problem-solving more efficient and concise.

Technology makes it easier for organizations and businesses to develop solutions through fishbone diagrams. Today, more diagramming tools are available online, which your teams can utilize. You can skip the conventional drawing of the fishbone diagram template and shift it to a more convenient way. Most importantly, you can collaborate with other members as the diagram can be accessed by other members wherever they may be.