Leading Through Learning: Fishbone Diagram

The Fishbone Diagram offers a visual way to organize the problem’s multiple causal chains. Each primary bone represents a causal chain. The primary cause is written in the box at the end of the bone, and subcauses are written underneath the secondary bones jutting from the primary bone. Follow the steps below to use this template.

  1. Insert your problem statement at the end of the arrow on the right side of the diagram.
  2. Brainstorm possible causes of the problem, writing each one on a sticky note. Use the 5 Whys to uncover as many causes of the problem as possible. Make sure the causes you articulate are grounded in evidence from external research, your knowledge of the system, and how your stakeholders experience the system.
  3. Organize causes into major categories of factors contributing to the problem. Write the categories in the boxes at the ends of each primary bone coming off the main arrow.
  4. Write the brainstormed ideas from Step 2 along the secondary bones of the appropriate categories. You may wish to apply 5 Whys analysis to each primary cause. If a brainstormed idea relates to more than one primary category, write it under each relevant category.
  5. Add more bones as necessary.