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Explaining concepts is usually easier when performed in visual terms as opposed to verbal explanations. This includes the creative use of diagrams that help explain concepts quickly and with far more impact compared to verbal methods. Of the many types of diagrams that are used to explain concepts, one of the most powerful is the fishbone or Ishikawa diagram.

What is the Fishbone Diagram?

The name Fishbone comes from the general shape of the diagram which resembles the skeleton of a fish. The purpose of the design is to visually explain the causes and effects of problems. The centerline or spine is the dividing point between causes and effects. The head of the fish is the problem. On each side of the spine is the different categories used to help find a solution.
Unlike a simple dividing line, a fishbone diagram helps to visualize how problems are created through different causes and effects. Plus, potential solutions to either solve the problem or keep it from happening in the first place.

How It Is Used

The first step for most manufacturing or shipping companies that use the diagram is for the quality management control team to brainstorm potential issues that their businesses may face. The idea being to discover the root causes of the problems and make clear its impact. By dividing cause and effect into separate areas of the diagram, it becomes easier to visualizes how the interaction occurs, the causes of the problem, and potential solutions to deal with issues either current or in the future.

The diagram makes it easier for multiple people to see the cause and effect, which in turn puts everyone on the same page. Because such issues are now easier to see, everyone can participate in providing potential solutions. This means that alternative points of view can be incorporated which helps bring about innovative solutions to problems.

They are often used in PowerPoint presentations to help visualize the issues and provide the cause and effect in a way that is easier to see and understand.

History

The original concept of the fishbone diagram can be traced back to the 1920s. It was considered one of the primary tools for quality control in factories. However, the overall design of the diagram was updated and made famous by Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa in the 1960s. Dr. Ishikawa was the pioneer of the quality management process used in the Kawasaki shipyards which helped revolutionize how management dealt with various issues. This is why it is sometimes called the Ishikawa Diagram.

The diagram quickly moved from the shipyards into manufacturing. The development of the Miata MX5 sports car was assisted by the use of a fishbone diagram. But overall, the use of the fishbone diagram has been considered an essential part of quality management in solving issues both current and projected for the near future.

There is little doubt of the impact that the fishbone diagram has had on industries around the world. The ability to visualize issues and their solutions through the use of the diagram has changed the way management has approached quality control.

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