Ishikawa Diagram

The fishbone diagram (or Ishikawa diagram or also cause-and-effect diagram) is the brainchild of Kaoru Ishikawa, who pioneered quality management processes in the Kawasaki shipyards, and in the process became one of the founding fathers of modern management. It is simply a diagram that shows the causes of a certain event. It was first used in the 1960s, and is considered one of the seven basic tools of quality management, along with the histogram, Pareto chart, check sheet, control chart, flowchart, and scatter diagram. See Quality Management Glossary. It is known as a fishbone diagram because of its shape, similar to the side view of a fish skeleton.




Causes in the diagram are often based around a certain category or set of causes, such as the 6 M's, 8 P's or 4 S's described below. Cause-and-effect diagrams can reveal key relationships among various variables, and the possible causes provide additional insight into process behaviour.


Causes in a typical diagram are normally arranged into categories, the main ones of which are:


The 6 M's

Machine, Method, Materials, Measurement, Man and Mother Nature (Environment) (recommended for manufacturing industry).


Note: a more modern selection of categories used in manufacturing includes Equipment, Process, People, Materials, Environment, and Management.


The 8 P's

Price, Promotion, People, Processes, Place / Plant, Policies, Procedures & Product (or Service) (recommended for administration and service industry).

The 4 S's

Surroundings, Suppliers, Systems, Skills (recommended for service industry).


It can also be used in connection with the Neuro-linguistic programming model of the Neurological Levels created by Robert Dilts: with Identity, Beliefs and Values, Capability, Behaviour, Environment.


A common use of the Ishikawa diagram is in product design, to identify desirable factors leading to an overall effect. Mazda Motors famously used an Ishikawa diagram in the development of the Miata sports car, where the required result was "Jinba Ittai" or "Horse and Rider as One". The main causes included such aspects as "touch" and "braking" with the lesser causes including highly granular factors such as "50/50 weight distribution" and "able to rest elbow on top of driver's door". Every factor identified in the diagram was included in the final design.

Appearance of Ishikawa Diagrams

Most Fishbone diagrams have a box at the right hand side in which is written the effect that is to be examined. The main body of the diagram is a horizontal line from which stem the general causes, represented as "bones". These are drawn towards the left-hand side of the paper and are each labeled with the causes to be investigated, often brainstormed beforehand and based on the major causes listed above. Off each of the large bones there may be smaller bones highlighting more specific aspects of a certain cause, and sometimes there may be a third level of bones or more. These can be found using the '5 Whys' technique. When the most probable causes have been identified, they are written in the box along with the original effect. The more populated bones generally outline more influential factors, with the opposite applying to bones with fewer "branches". Further analysis of the diagram can be achieved with a Pareto chart.


The Ishikawa Diagram

The Fishbone diagram is the brainchild of Kaoru Ishikawa, who pioneered quality management processes in the Kawasaki shipyards, and in the process became one of the founding fathers of modern management. The cause and effect diagram is used to explore all the potential or real causes (or inputs) that result in a single effect (or output). Causes are arranged according to their level of importance or detail, resulting in a depiction of relationships and hierarchy of events. This can help you search for root causes, identify areas where there may be problems, and compare the relative importance of different causes.


Causes in a the Ishikawa diagram are frequently arranged into four major categories. While these categories can be anything, you will often see:


– manpower, methods, materials, and machinery (recommended for manufacturing)

– equipment, policies, procedures, and people (recommended for administration and service).


These guidelines can be helpful but should not be used if they limit the diagram or are inappropriate. The categories you use should suit your needs. At SkyMark, we often create the branches of the cause and effect tree from the titles of the affinity sets in a preceding affinity diagram.


The Fishbone diagram is also known as the fishbone diagram because it was drawn to resemble the skeleton of a fish, with the main causal categories drawn as "bones" attached to the spine of the fish, as shown below.


The Fishbone diagram, as originally drawn by Kaoru Ishikawa, is the classic way of displaying root causes of an observed effect.




The Ishikawa diagram or in other words cause and effect diagrams can also be drawn as tree diagrams, resembling a tree turned on its side. From a single outcome or trunk, branches extend that represent major categories of inputs or causes that create that single outcome. These large branches then lead to smaller and smaller branches of causes all the way down to twigs at the ends. The tree structure has an advantage over the fishbone-style diagram. As a fishbone diagram becomes more and more complex, it becomes difficult to find and compare items that are the same distance from the effect because they are dispersed over the diagram. With the tree structure, all items on the same causal level are aligned vertically.


The cause and effect diagram can also be drawn with right angles, which makes it less tangled, and easier to see what layer of causality is being considered at any given time.


To successfully build a cause and effect diagram:


1. Be sure everyone agrees on the effect or problem statement before beginning.

2. Be succinct.

3. For each node, think what could be its causes. Add them to the tree.

4. Pursue each line of causality back to its root cause.

5. Consider grafting relatively empty branches onto others.

6. Consider splitting up overcrowded branches.

7. Consider which root causes are most likely to merit further investigation.


Other uses for the Cause and Effect tool include the organization diagramming, parts hierarchies, project planning, tree diagrams, and the 5 Why's.