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How to apply Ishikawa diagram to solve complex problems in projects

An Ishikawa diagram or fishbone analysis is a method for examining why your business is struggling and how to fix it. It’s a tool used by many different types of businesses to pinpoint what their weaknesses are. And while it may be daunting at first, once you break the process down into smaller steps, it becomes much easier to follow and implement. Let’s take a look at how you can use an Ishikawa diagram in your business.

Define the Problem

Before you can start looking for solutions, you need to define the “problem” you’re trying to solve. This may sound a bit obvious, but what’s the point of solving a problem if you don’t know what it is? So take some time to think about the issues that are currently bothering your business. Do you currently have any customer complaints? Do your staff ever appear frustrated or uninspired when working? What aspects of your business could be improved? Once you know the “problem” you’re trying to solve, you’re one step closer to finding the solutions. Now you can start looking for possible causes within your business.

Decide on Key Categories of Causes

Now that you’ve defined the “problem”, you’re ready to start trying to find the “causes” of the problem. Every cause will come from within your business, so you’ll need to decide which causes to focus on. One way to do this is to think about the categories that would be under the Ishikawa diagram. There are many different ways to categorize causes, but you’ll find that using some or all of these categories helps your team focus on what’s important.

Identify Possible Causes within Each Category

Once you’ve defined the key categories of causes, you can start looking for them within your business. Keep in mind that “causes” are not the same as “causes”. Causes are what create results, while causes are what you want to look at to discover new ways of solving the problem. If you had to explain what your company does to a customer, you’re looking for those customer “causes”.

As you look at the categories above, you can start to see what kinds of causes you might want to focus on. For example, if you were looking into why some customers were complaining, you could start by looking at the categories below.

Sort and Prioritize Potential Causes

Once you’ve identified some of the possible causes within each category, you’ll want to sort them into a specific order. This will help you get a clearer picture of your business and the possible issues that could be causing them issues. Start by writing down all of the causes you identified. Once you’ve got them all out of the way, start sorting them by category.

For example, if you were focused on the categories of delivering products or services, you’d be sorting all of the possible causes into those categories. Once you’ve sorted all of the causes, you can start prioritizing them. This will help you keep your attention focused on the highest priority causes. One way to do this is to ask yourself a few simple questions. Ask yourself: How important is this cause? What’s the worst-case scenario if we don’t solve it?

Plan and take action

After you’ve identified, sorted, and prioritized the causes within your business, you’ll want to create a plan of action. This should show you exactly how you’re going to solve the problems. When creating your plan of action, you’ll want to think about how you’re going to solve the “problem” in the easiest way possible.

You don’t want to create a lot of extra work, so you want to think about how you can solve the “problem” in the least amount of work possible. As you create your plan, you can keep in mind the three “Ps”. These three principles help you keep your plans simpler, short and practical.


Ishikawa diagrams can be a great way to get your team to focus on how they’re currently performing. By using this process, you can identify which processes or areas of your business need the most improvement. If you and your team have been trying to find the “biggest” problem in your business and aren’t having much luck, an Ishikawa diagram could be exactly what you’re looking for. You can hire Green Projects Consulting or another reputable management company to come up with such a diagram for your business project. With this process, you can find the “smallest” problems in your business and work to fix them.

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