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Fishbone analysis also known as cause and effect analysis was created by Kaoru Ishikawa. The analysis suggests that in order to solve a problem (or effect) an organisation should try to find out the causes behind the effect. Discovering all of the causes will help an organisation solve the problem and plan how to prevent the problem from reoccurring.

Fishbone Diagram

Fishbone analysis involves drawing a diagram (showing the effect and each of its causes) in a fish skeleton shape. A cause and effect analysis is usually completed in teams, where the skeleton is completed through the team, brainstorming possible causes. The problem is written at the head of the fish skeleton and each cause is recorded next to a fishbone. Recording each cause as a bone encourages people to explore all of the causes fully and should stop them jumping to assumptions, which prevent them discovering the true (root) cause of the effect.

Grouping Causes

There could be a large list of possible causes, splitting the causes into groups may help you remember to cover all of them. The groups will depend on the industry that the organisation is based in. For example manufacturing industries could be split as follows:

Materials the firm uses
Production methods
Employees (Manpower)

The groups are not "set in stone" each organisation should change them, to suit their organisational activities and the problem they are analysing.



Example Fishbone (Cause And Effect) Analysis

The example fishbone analysis provided below, explores a problem with a firm operating in the service industry. Service industry tasks are usually split into four groups known as the 4Ps: policies, procedures, people, and plant (technology). To fully explore the causes additional groups from the marketing mix (product, price, promotion,place) have been added.


fishbone analysis

The example diagram shows that the problem for the company is declining sales and there are a number of possible causes

Inefficient processes
Employee training
Promotional activity budgets
Uncompetitive pricing
Plant location
Outdated policies
Time consuming procedures and
Outdated Products.


Fishbone analysis is a good way to solve a problem especially for employees who like to visualise situations. It encourages a full analysis of the issues and discourages assumptive behaviour. However for a fishbone analysis to be a productive activity once causes have been discovered, an organisation needs to write an action plan to solve the causes and ensure that the action plan is fully completed.

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