A Fishbone Diagram

A fishbone diagram, also known as a “cause and effect” diagram is a problem solving technique used in project management. It has also been referred to as an Ishikawa diagram after a Japanese professor; Kaoru Ishikawa. Problems arising in projects usually have many causes and in some cases, these problems may be interrelated and complex. A fishbone diagram is thus a useful tool that diagrammatically enumerates these problems aiding in their solution.

Due to its diagrammatic nature, it is possible to view at a single glance the elements surrounding the project and thus identify all the problem areas and hence work on their solution in and easier manner. This is a major advantage of this technique. Additionally, it facilitates an in-depth analysis of problems by splitting them into causes and sub-causes. This again ensures a more efficient and effective approach to problem solution.

It is also extremely easy to use and this poses as an important advantage over other management tools. To make a fishbone diagram, one draws a horizontal line pointing to the problem whose solution is desired. Secondly the causes of this are identified and indicated by backward sloping lines along the first line, called ‘bones’. Sub-causes of the problem are usually then identified and put as sub-branches. Lastly, a fishbone diagram has been said to facilitate brainstorming.
To come up with the ‘bones’ discussed above, the project management committee needs to think and rethink the causes leading up to the effect. An example of the use of a fishbone diagram can be a project to increase sales by a particular firm. The “causes” here thus ‘bones’ would then be constituted by such items such as pricing, advertisement, market, branding, product features, etc. All in all, it is agreed that this is an effective tool which every project manager should equipped with.

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