Proficient resources, tactful project manager or even the best laid plan have all failed to create a successful project that is free of glitches. We all are well aware of the fact no project is free of complications that arise during the term due to changing circumstances or several other factors.
Problems might arise at any given point in a project. Having a problem-resolution technique in place is certainly a smart move that a project manager can make. One such technique for investigating complications with several interconnected causes is ‘Cause and Effect’ or ‘Ishikawa’ or ‘Fishbone Diagram’.
Fishbone diagram is a tool for analyzing and identifying potential factors that cause a specific effect. This tool helps in recognizing the relationship between different variables that work in sync.

How Does Fishbone technique Work?

This problem solving techniques requires the construction of a Fishbone structure entailing all the problems faced. Here are the steps to follow while carrying out this cause and effect analysis.

  1. Identifying the Problem

The first step in constructing Cause and Effect diagram is to jot down the current exact problem. Apart from detecting the problem it is also important to identify the resources involved and the point at which it occurred.
The problem can now be written on the extreme left of a large sheet and draw a horizontal line across the sheet to form the fishbone diagram.
Then, write the problem in a box on the left-hand side of a large sheet of paper, and draw a line across the paper horizontally from the box. This arrangement, looking like the head and spine of a fish, gives you space to develop ideas.

  1. Recognizing the Major Factors

Identifying the factors that are either part of the problem or cause of the problem is the second step. These factors may include materials, equipment, external factors, resources involved and more.
Using McKinsey 7S Framework or the 4Ps (Product, Place, Price and Promotion) of marketing helps in better identification of problem-causing factors as such models offer structured strategies.

  1. List Possible Causes

After identifying the possible factors, the next step is to identify causes that directly or inversely relate to the identified factors.
All possible causes should be listed shorter lines that protrude out from the long backbone in the diagram. If a particular cause is large and complex, then this can be broken into deputized causes and can be projected as protruding out from the main cause line.

  1. Analyzing the Diagram

This is the stage should have a complete Fishbone diagram reflecting all possible factors and causes that might contribute to the current problem.
Based on the significance and complexity of the issue, most likely causes and factors, which can cause further complexities, can be investigated. Further investigation may involve carrying out project-specific surveys. The results of such surveys will then be subjected to test in order to identify actual factors that contribute to the current problem.

Benefits of Fishbone Diagram

Although Cause and Effect diagram was originally developed for quality control, it can be used as a technique as well. This approach can be used in:

  • Discovering root cause of an issue
  • Reveal bottlenecks within the processes
  • Identify why and where a particular process is not working
  • Fishbone diagrams predominantly shows the root causes of a problem, for example, quality failures. Therefore, it is of great significance in managing a project and making a quality plan, task management and fault detection
  • Successful project managers make use of fishbone diagram for early project analysis and planning
  • This approach can also be used while gathering factors and identifying hidden factors that play vital role in the given project

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