Fishbone Diagram Examples and Definition

The best way to explain and understand how does a fishbone diagram work (also known as cause and effect chart or Ishikawa diagram) for problem-solving, is to see some simple and practical fishbone diagram examples.




Cause and effect diagram is a key tool for root cause analysis that has important uses in almost any business area such as project management, process improvement, marketing, and etc.

On this page:

  • What is cause and effect diagram? Definition and meaning.
  • Fishbone diagram importance, purpose, and steps.
  • 3 examples of a completed fishbone diagram (with images).

Whether you’re a marketing researcher, project manager or a student, understanding and defining problems is a key pain point for you.

Fishbone diagram is recognized as one of the best graphical methods to understand and solve problems because it takes into consideration all the possible causes.

Let’s define it:

A fishbone diagram (also known as a cause and effect diagram, Ishikawa diagram or herringbone diagram) is a visualization technique for categorizing the potential causes of a specific problem. The main purpose is to find the root cause.

It is one of the key root cause analysis tools that combines brainstorming with a kind of mind mapping and makes you think about all potential causes of a given problem, rather than just the one or two.

Before seeing some practical fishbone diagram examples, let’s see why Ishikawa diagram is so important and what are the key purposes of it:

 Ishikawa Diagram Purposes:

  • To help teams categorize a variety of potential causes of a problem.
  • To help you determine the root causes.
  • To help you clearly break down the relationships between the factors that cause the issue.

Benefits and Importance of Fishbone Diagram 

There are many benefits of Ishikawa diagram for cause analysis and problem-solving:

  • Displays all the possible causes of a particular problem in a simple, easy to read graphical way.
  • Captures the relationships between the potential causes and shows them in the chart.
  • A great tool for solving complex problems where many factors have to be taken into consideration.
  • Stimulates an in-depth analysis and evaluation because allows you to explore possible causes in details.
  • Gives you a bigger picture and better understanding of the problem.
  • Boosts and frameworks brainstorming about the possible reasons.
  • Stimulates in-depth discussion among team members about the problem.
  • Helps in maintaining team focus.
  • Identify where a process isn’t working.

Now, as we know the basic let’s see some simple and practical examples of cause and effect diagram.

Fishbone Diagram Examples:

Example 1:

Let’s say you are an online marketing specialist working for a company witch experience low website traffic. You have the task to find the main reasons. Here is a fishbone diagram example that might help you resolve the situation:

fishbone diagram example - low website traffic

Example 2:

A software development company has a too low performance of its new web application product. Let’s use a fishbone diagram to graph the possible causes:

fishbone diagram examples -software development

Example 3:

Finally, let’s see an example related to our personal and healthy life. The fishbone diagram below represents some common reasons for human obesity.

Fishbone Diagram Example - Obesity Reasons
Making a fishbone diagram is not a two-minute process. There are some important steps you need to follow in order to make your cause and effect chart truly effective:

Fishbone Diagram Main Steps:

Step1: Identify and agree on a problem statement. After that, write the problem statement in a box on the left side of a whiteboard or sheet of paper. Now, draw a horizontal line across the paper starting from the box.

Step2: Consider and brainstorm the major categories of factors involved in the problem. If this is difficult, you can use a standard categorization models such as 5Ms and 1P. Often these causes are categorized under:

  • People
  • Equipment
  • Materials
  • Measurement
  • External factors and etc.

Step 3: Identify the possible causes. For each of the categories of factors, you found in step 2, brainstorm possible causes. Draw the possible causes as branches from the main horizontal line. Where a cause is too complex, you may break it down into some sub-causes. Draw these as small lines that come off each cause line.

Step 4: Analyze the diagram you just have created. Now, you have an overview of the possible causes. Depending on the nature of the problem, you might need to collect and investigate additional information to better understand the causes. This may involve carrying out surveys, simple hypothesis testing (such as asking “Where?”, and “How?”) and etc.

Tools for creating fishbone diagram:

Fishbone diagram is one of the popular types of graphs that are created easily. You can create fishbone diagrams using popular online diagram making tools such as:

If you prefer free graphing software tools, you can try:

  • Canva

Finally, you can use Microsoft products such as:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint

In addition, some free mind mapping tools are a great way for creating Ishikawa diagram. And of course, you can use a sheet of paper or a whiteboard.

The above simple but practical fishbone diagram examples aim to help you understand better how does a fishbone diagram work for problem-solving purposes.




Creating cause and effect chart with your team members, will help you build trust between the members and will allow you to gain new understandings of particular processes in your company.

One Response

  1. Avatar Jain Pushkar May 11, 2020

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