Sample of a Fishbone Diagram

What is a Fishbone diagram?

Ishikawa diagrams, also known as fishbone diagrams, are a mechanism for generating and mining data to discover the cause and effect of an issue or observation. Kaoru Ishikawa created this diagramming technique in (1982) to show the causes of a specific event. A fishbone diagram is an analysis tool that provides a systematic way of looking at effects and the causes that create or contribute to those effects. Because of the function of the fishbone diagram, it may be referred to as a cause-and-effect diagram. The design of the diagram looks much like the skeleton of a fish. The technique has been adopted and used in many quality and analytical processes such as SAFe’s Inspect and Adapt process.

This diagramming technique is almost always used in combination with other techniques (see below). The diagram acts as a way to organize many potential causes of problems or issues in an orderly way and so that the root cause can be sifted out of the noise.

When should a fishbone diagram be used? (more…)

Data and Data Analysis:

The relationship between data and analysis can be described using soccer as an analogy. Data describes where the ball is now; analysis helps predict where it will be next. Value is derived from having foreknowledge of where the soccer ball will be later.  Conclusion:  If you really want to add value, learn how to apply quantitative analysis tools (more than just graphs).

Using Approximations:

Using an approximation as an absolute is a risk that can be mitigated. The process of decision-making many times needs to use approximations because waiting for certainty may be a lengthy proposition. Because absolutes are typically rare or take too long, approximations are a necessity. I suggest adding risk mitigation in the form of a feedback loop to all decision making processes. Feedback loops will allow you to refine the original decision based on data when needed. Feedback solves a number of common management problems (including some which aren’t related to decisions based on an approximation like changes to the environment).  Conclusion:  A decision-making process with out a feedback mechanism is  . . . just silly.