Project Management

Cause and Effect Analysis

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at [email protected]. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

This article supports the presentation for Cause and Effect Analysis and provides a more detailed explanation of how the tool should be used. It should be read in conjunction with the presentation.

The fundamental purpose of this analysis is to understand what is really causing the problems that we are facing. If we don’t conduct the analysis but rather make assumptions about what is causing the problem, then we jump straight to our perceived solution and more often than not we end up wasting time, money and effort on implementing the wrong solution (or an incomplete solution). Not only is this inefficient, it doesn’t solve the problem that we are facing in the first place!

Instead, we undertake an analysis of the problem using a diagramming technique that was first developed in the 1960s by a Japanese quality management expert called Kaoru Ishikawa. You may hear it referred to as a fishbone diagram because of the way that it looks, or an Ishikawa diagram after the man who invented it; it’s the same basic approach.

The diagram is intended to be a catalyst for discussion with your team about the problems that you are facing and the possible causes of those problems. Success doesn’t come from “filling out the diagram”; rather it comes from using the development of the diagram as an opportunity to talk through …

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