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It is not that bizarre that sometimes we may encounter certain issues or problems regarding the results we expect at our company. For that, there are tools that will help us deal with these “mistakes” for our company to keep on going strong. This is why we bring you today the Ishikawa Diagram: a method that will allow our internal processes to improve, as well as the quality of our services.

But, what is the Ishikawa Diagram?

Many useful tools are available nowadays for entrepreneurs, like those known as agile methods, as the Ishikawa Diagram. It is also known as the Cause & Effect diagram or the Fishbone diagram; a very practical equation for your company during quality evaluations.

The Ishikawa Diagram is a very practical equation for every company during quality evaluations

You may be wondering: what is the Ishikawa for, anyways? It mainly focuses on establishing the possible reasons behind any problematic issue, so that it can be addressed properly. The central part of this Fishbone scheme would be the primary problem, and every bone would make reference to possible reasons.

The Fishbone Diagram is based on fundamental truth: once we find and pull out the root, the problem would be gone too.

▻ Elements of the Ishikawa Diagram

The Ishikawa Diagram, which bears a clear resemblance to the skeleton of a fish, is composed of three main elements:

  1. The head: Located at the front of the central spine, this part represents the problems.
  2. The spines: Emerging from the central spine, these represent the number of causes contributing to the given problem.
  3. Sub-spines: The large spines also include smaller spines, which determine the minor

Different types of the Cause & Effect Diagram

Since this diagram is so simple, there is really only one type. However, depending on your company’s specific needs, the approach can be readjusted:

Cause and Effect Diagram and the 6Ms method

Now that we want to define the roots of the problem, we must rely on the 6Ms: manpower, machinery, methods, measuring, raw material and environe(m)ent.

Attending to these 6 Ms, we can divide the possible justifications, so that each bone of the structure is the association of different roots regarding the same M topic.

Let’s see an example of an Ishikawa Diagram using the 6M method. Do you like our template? Feel free to ask for it! 😊

Stratification method

This modality of the Ishikawa Diagram is best for those scenarios where the main issue has something to do directly with its nature. Meaning that the possible causes (the branches) are part of the main body.

A vehicle would be a great example: if there has been a mistake during its production, the root of any mistake arising could be found among one of its components: the engine, its stopping system, the insides…

Process flow method

In this case, the fish bones on the diagram would be the different phases or steps of the process. If the finished product has gone through a design section, a production section, a painting section and a packaging section, each of those phases would form one branch.

Simple Fish diagram

The 6M categories may be a nice way to organize the Fish Diagram. However, they do not always fit with the specific requests of the scheme.

There is no need to stay within the preestablished causes, then. While using this diagram, we can change it as we want depending on our necessities, thus defining those paragraphs on each bone.

Ishikawa diagram: pros and cons

Elaborating a pros and cons list should always be a priority, so let’s make one for the Ishikawa Diagram. It would be very useful to know if it is the best decision for your case only.

The clearer pros probably are the following:

  • It opens the way to a thorough analysis, avoiding leaks on the possible reasons that may cause a problem.
  • It helps visually, because it’s easy to study and
  • Your company will see its processes and results improved because this system will bring to light anything that can be malfunctioning soon enough to fix it.
  • It allows the collaboration among work teams, because it’s them who will participate in the building of the diagram due to their close connection with the processes.

But, even though it is a meticulous system with all those benefits, the Ishikawa Diagram also shows some issues we should mention:

  • It is such a simple diagram that sometimes, if the scenario is a bit more complex, ends up being useless.
  • Priorities are not taken into account among the possible causes, and that may be a problem when there are some reasons more important than others regarding the poor functioning of an element within a company.
  • It can be subjective at the end because it is based on the employers’ ideas and opinions, which can lead to the diagram being less effective and a waste of time.

Despite these minor disadvantages, the Fishbone Diagram could be of great use while dealing with certain situations and discovering the reasons behind any error towards its complete removal.

▻ How to apply the Ishikawa diagram

You may be wondering how to apply this diagram, right? Take note of these easy steps to follow:

  1. Define the problem you want to address. It will be the “effect” and the central part of your fish diagram.
  2. Gather your team for a brainstorming session so you can identify the possible reasons behind the error and write them down.
  3. Put the different causes you came up with into separated groups. You can do that following the 6M method or the formula that best suits your needs. Each group would create a branch out of the fishbone.
  4. Take into consideration every single branch to erase the true origin so the problem can be completely rooted out.

As you can see, this Ishikawa Diagram can be of great help during quality tests at your company, because it allows you to identify the true reason behind any given situation.

By applying this diagram to your business management, not only will you be able to identify what went wrong, but also to fix and correct it soon enough.

Tools for making an Ishikawa Diagram online

Now that you understand better why making a diagram can be of great help, we’ll make your life easier so you can take the next step. Get to know these tools, most of which are free, to easily create your own Fishbone Diagram:


In Canva, you’ll find almost anything you can imagine. And if not, you can create it yourself. Start completing the Cause and Effect Diagram using the 6M method very easily with the templates offered by this platform.

➡️ Design an Ishikawa Diagram with Canva


It is specialized software for creating Fishbone Diagrams that has templates and a very secure file management network.

➡️ Create an Ishikawa Diagram with Cacoo


If you are looking for a professional solution to create your diagrams, Lucidchart is the ideal tool. It offers more than 800 templates and allows remote access with real-time collaboration, in case you need it.

➡️ Create an Ishikawa Diagram with Lucidchart

 “Success is not achieved only with special qualities. It is above all a work of constancy, method and organization”

Víctor Hugo


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