A great tool to use to help determine true root causes to a problem versus symptoms is the cause and effect (fishbone) diagram. This effective process improvement tool has been used across many industries and business types. As your team of subject matter experts or problem solvers are brainstorming potential causes to your problem, the fishbone diagram allows you to focus and bucket your information into cause categories.

For example, consider this common problem of “Long Patient Wait Times” that exists across the country in most doctor offices, urgent cares, or emergency rooms.

Review the simplified version of a fishbone diagram below for this problem.

The fishbone diagram allows you to bucket the potential problems into 4 categories (categories can vary):

1. People
2. Equipment
3. Methods
4. Environment

As you are brainstorming, use the categories to trigger additional root causes and to dig for deeper understanding of the underlying problem.


Contact  if you need someone to help facilitate your brainstorming session. We can help you at any stage along your journey from process documentation to implementing process improvement projects. Contact us to get started.