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Fishbones and Einstein?

Have you ever thought about using techniques to solve problems? Recently I stumbled upon a method of solving problems that I would like to share. It's called the fishbone diagram (or the Cause and Effect Analysis). So, why is it called fishbone? How does it work? When do I use it? Well…let me show and tell you.

The basic concept for this problem solving method started back in the 1920's but came in to popularity during the 1960's as a quality management tool. This method is used to solve problems relating to product design, bottlenecks in processes, processes that aren't working, and I'm sure others.

Here's a simple diagram:

Here's the way it works:

  1. State the Problem

    1. The problem must be stated precisely. The more detailed of an explanation the more effective the fishbone diagram is.

    2. Make sure to define the problem from different perspectives

    3. Don't be afraid to spend a lot of time defining the problem. Einstein once said “If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”

  2. Causes of the Problem - Break down the causes into categories and sub-categories

    1. Common Categories are:

      1. People - everyone involved

      2. Process - Defines how the process is performed

      3. Tools - What's needed to accomplish the job

      4. Environment - conditions that influence the process including time

      5. Measurement - Defines how we have determined the outcome is wrong

  3. Analyze the Diagram - this should help facilitate the solution

Why is it called a fishbone diagram? Because it looks like a fishbone…of course.


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