What is Ishikawa Diagram and How to Make It

Ishikawa Diagrams are most commonly used when a team prepares to find solutions for a particular problem. In this comprehensive guide, we will understand how Ishikawa diagrams are powerful tools for decision-making.

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In this article
  1. What is Ishikawa Diagram
  2. What Are the Elements of Ishikawa Diagrams
  3. How to Make an Ishikawa Diagram
  4. Types of Ishikawa diagrams
  5. Ishikawa Diagram Template
  6. Conclusion

What is Ishikawa Diagram

Ishikawa Diagram, most commonly known as Fishbone Diagram or even Cause-and-Effect Diagram, was first popularized by Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa in the 1960s. Dr. Ishikawa was a renowned professor in the engineering faculty at the University of Tokyo, Japan, and is also remembered as one of the founding fathers of modern management for all of his contributions to the field of quality management.

In Ishikawa diagrams or Ishikawa Fishbone diagrams, the root-cause analysis is intended to shed some light on the relationships among different system variables. Additionally, the possible causes provide important insights into the process and its behavior.

The Ishikawa diagram resembles a fish skeleton, and that is why most students and research experts usually refer to it as a Fishbone Diagram.

  • Head of the Fish: Effects denote the central problem and are represented by the head of the fish. Here, we mention the problem of any project or situation.
  • Bones/Skeleton of Fish: Here, we mention all the potential causes that are categorized into branches. Similar branches can then later be added to these causes, or affinities, to add more specific causes during the detailed brainstorming sessions.

What Are the Elements of Ishikawa Diagrams

Similar to any other mind maps, Ishikawa Fishbone diagrams also have several important elements that must be included in the diagram. Depending upon the causes and their subsequent effects, these elements can later be modified, but their core nature remains the same.

A few of the commonly used elements of Ishikawa diagrams are:

  • Problem Statement: In the brainstorming session, it helps identify the problem one is going to address.
  • Categories: These are the detailed branches spread across both sides of the Fishbone structure and categorize the potential causes. Some of the most common categories include people, environment, materials, process, and management.
  • Causes: While making Ishikawa diagrams, we list the potential causes under each category. These are the causes that might contribute to the given problem.
  • Sub-causes: If you are dealing with more complex problems, you can further break down the causes into sub-causes.
  • Arrows: In Ishikawa diagrams, arrows indicate the relationship between the causes and their effects.

As you can see from the elements of Ishikawa diagrams, this mind-mapping process helps visually structure the information, problems, and causes. This makes it easier to identify and understand all the factors that might be influencing the problem.

Some other important reasons to use an Ishikawa diagram are:

  • Easily help in identifying the potential causes of any problem.
  • It helps the facilitator understand the weak areas and bottlenecks.
  • Brainstorming sessions help accelerate problem-solving.

How to Make an Ishikawa Diagram

Now that you have noted the important elements of Ishikawa diagrams let us try making one. With the following steps, you can easily make an Ishikawa diagram to identify any root problem:

Step1Identify the Exact Problem

The first step that you need to do before making an Ishikawa diagram is to identify and write down a problem statement. If dealing professionally, it is recommended to determine the exact issue and where the problem actually occurs.

Step2Document the Problem

Start making the Ishikawa diagram by writing down the problem statement in a box on the right side or in the fish's head. Now, draw a horizontal line that would represent the fish's spine.

How to Make an Ishikawa Diagram

Get together with your team to brainstorm how you plan to categorize the factors causing the problems. Once brainstormed, start drawing a line off the spine for each cause, followed by labeling each cause.

How to Make an Ishikawa Diagram
Step4Identify Potential Causes

Brainstorm with your team to learn about the potential causes of the problem that may be behind each of the brainstormed factors. Once identified, start drawing shorter lines of the bones of the diagram to visualize these potential causes.

How to Make an Ishikawa Diagram
Step5Analyze the Fishbone Diagram

Once you have a fully fleshed fishbone diagram ready, start researching more about it and use it to conduct surveys and investigations. Once you have thoroughly analyzed the Ishikawa diagram, you can easily find the root cause.

Hot Topic: Learn about how to make a fishbone diagram more easily with EdrawMind Free.

Types of Ishikawa diagrams

After Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa coined the Ishikawa diagrams, several researchers came together to create different types of Ishikawa diagrams based on different scenarios and problems. The most common Ishikawa diagrams are:

  • The 6 M's Ishikawa diagrams: In 6M Ishikawa diagrams, we organize all the gathered information into six primary categories, i.e., man or manpower, methods, materials, measurements, mother nature or environmental factors (both internal and external), and machinery. Due to the involvement of Machines, these Ishikawa diagramsare commonly used in the manufacturing industry, where they help the management team easily identify the bottlenecks slowing down any given manufacturing or logistics process.
  • The 3 M's Ishikawa diagrams: If you plan to create the Ishikawa diagrams, but the targeted industry is not as complex as a manufacturing industry, we recommend going ahead with the 3 M's Ishikawa diagrams. The 3 M's, commonly known as 'Man, Machine, and Material,' organizes the provided information into these three categories. Such Ishikawa diagrams are commonly used by small-scale industries where environmental factors and processes to bring the output are not addressed in detail.
  • The 8 P's Ishikawa diagrams: When dealing in service industries where the involvement of methods and machines is very restricted, process management teams go ahead with the 8 P's Ishikawa diagrams. The 8P fishbone diagram organizes the given information into procedures, policies, processes, price, place, product, people, and promotion. As you can see from the categories, we have put more focus on the people and price rather than the manufacturing. The most common industries where we use 8P techniques are the service-based industries, like online tuitions, housekeeping businesses, and such.
  • The 4 S's Ishikawa diagrams: Another important service industry Ishikawa diagram type is the 4S fishbone diagram. Here, we focus on surroundings, suppliers, systems, and skills. Due to its nature of focusing on surroundings and skills, the 4S Ishikawa diagrams can be used as a manufacturing and industrial problem-solving tool. What sets this apart from the other Ishikawa diagram types is that it limits the attributes to only four factors while trying to capture all the mentioned attributes. Such limitations help focus on the underlying problems and do not divert the problem-solver into different attributes.

As you must have seen from these Ishikawa diagram types, there are various techniques or methods that allow you to choose from that best fit your problems and industries. It should be noted here that some of the Ishikawa diagram types are specific to a particular industry and might not work that effectively for others. So, before the brainstorming sessions, you should keep in mind the objective and resources in hand, which helps in choosing the right method for your problems.

Ishikawa Diagram Template

In order to understand the Ishikawa diagrams in detail, let us walk you through a free Ishikawa diagram template created in EdrawMind.

In the following Ishikawa diagram template, we have the fishbone structure showcasing the causes of an event that often occurred in the manufacturing and product development processes. As shown in this template, there are a total of six factors that influence the problem, and those are man, methods, materials, measurements, mother nature, and machinery. These are depicted in this Ishikawa diagram template by their respective cliparts.

Since such Ishikawa diagram templates are fully customizable with EdrawMind, you can download them and add the respective details in the cause-and-effect verticals. Additionally, you can incorporate these visual elements in learning more about Ishikawa diagrams and their relevance in different industries.


When it comes to identifying the bottlenecks and their solutions, Ishikawa diagrams have been proven as indispensable tools. By creating such Ishikawa fishbone diagrams, teams can easily uncover insights that might not be immediately apparent through traditional brainstorming methods. If you are a student or a professional, we highly recommend using EdrawMind to create Ishikawa diagrams to enhance your problem-solving skills and streamline the overall processes. EdrawMind comes with free Ishikawa diagram templates that are fully customizable, and you can add content as per your problems, solutions, and targeted industry.

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  • 1. What is an Ishikawa Diagram Used For?
    Ishikawa Diagrams are used to identify and analyze any given problem, its causes, and the relationships between them. In general, they help the teams and researchers make well-informed decisions to address the root causes, which leads to more effective resolutions.
  • 2. Why Is It Called an Ishikawa Diagram?
    The Ishikawa fishbone diagram is named after its developer, Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa, who specializes in quality management and is deemed one of the highly acclaimed Japanese organizational theorists. It is often called a Fishbone Diagram due to its visual resemblance to a fish's skeleton.
EdrawMind Team
EdrawMind Team Jul 02, 24
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