PM Tools & Techniques (Part 1): The Ishikawa Diagram

Naeem is a freelance consultant in Hyderabad, Telangana, India.

Project management has a lot of tools, and many are very easy to use. But how often do people use them, and how easy is it to use them? I will try to explain some of them in upcoming articles. The first thing to understand here is that when I say “tool,” I don’t mean some hardware (like a hammer), machinery or even software. It can be something as simple as a spreadsheet or as complex as anything you can imagine.

The first tool we will look at is the Ishikawa diagram, named after Kaoru Ishikawa. It is also known as a fishbone diagram, a cause-and-effect diagram and some other names. This is a very simple tool and requires some complex tools like a pen and paper (yup…very difficult things for people to find and use these days!). This tool is used to identify possible places where a problem exists.

As the name suggests, it requires us to draw a diagram that resembles fish bones. There are few simple steps that you should follow:

  1. Draw a straight line across the length of the page.
  2. On one side (we will call it the start point), write down the task being executed.
  3. On the other side (end point), write down the result expected at the end of executing the task.
  4. Now you have to list all the work you have done to take the task from its start point to its end point. These tasks are listed on the smaller bones of the fish (these are also called …

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