Fishbone diagrams are used in root cause analysis to identify problems in product development or quality management.

They are often employed in the healthcare and nursing industries and are used as brainstorming and mind-mapping methods that many students and businesses find helpful.

Any business can experience issues that can come in various shapes and sizes. You must be able to quickly identify the source of such problems and address them appropriately.

An organized method is the only way to guarantee this, and the fishbone diagram example fits that bill.

Fishbone Diagram Templates


What is a Fishbone Diagram?

A fishbone diagram is a problem-solving method that uses a fish-shaped diagram to model the causes of issues and explore remedies. It is also known as a herringbone diagram, a cause-and-effect diagram, or an Ishikawa diagram after its inventor Kaoru Ishikawa.

This tool illustrates every possible cause of an issue to identify its root causes. The fishbone diagram offers a framework for displaying various reasons and aids in grouping them into major categories.

When used correctly, it ensures you deal with the root of the issue and don’t merely put a band-aid in place.

When should a fishbone diagram be used?

The fishbone diagram was first intended to be a great tool for problem-solving, but it is much more than that. The fishbone diagram can assist you in organizing all of the relevant components into a hierarchical breakdown that’s easy to understand.

Example application scenarios for fishbone diagram templates include:

  • Issue statement investigation
  • Root cause analysis
  • Assess a novel design
  • Quality defect prevention
  • Process development
  • Quality augmentation

Fishbone Diagram Examples

Fishbone Diagram Template 12 -
Fishbone Diagram Template 12 - Download for Word Fishbone Diagram Template 12 - Download for Photoshop
Fishbone Diagram Template 13 -
Fishbone Diagram Template 13 - Download for Word Fishbone Diagram Template 13 - Download for Photoshop

How to Construct a Fishbone Effect Diagram

It’s easy to make a fishbone diagram on your own. Alternatively, you can find many online templates to choose from.

  1. Your fishbone diagram begins with a main problem or main cause. In a few words or a short sentence, this is the “head” of the fish. This could look something like:
    A growth stunt in the customer base.
    Reputational or brand image issues.
    Supply chain issues.
    Lack of inclusion and diversity.
    Increased competition.
  2. The fish’s backbone is then shown as a long arrow leaving the head.
  3. The first bones will be drawn immediately from the backbone through tiny, right-to-left diagonal lines. These main branches are the root or most likely reasons for your problem. Following the examples above, these reasons might include:
    Lack of effective marketing.
    History of the company’s public actions.
    Poor communication between suppliers.
    Diversity and inclusion limited to the HR department.
    Not having a niche for the company.
  4. Create smaller bones that branch off from the initial backbone. Write the different categories of causes as a heading for each smaller bone. Some of these smaller bones can be named:
    Machines (equipment)
    People (employees)
    Raw materials
  5. It’s important to brainstorm all the possible causes of the problem and write them down in the appropriate category. You can have sub-causes that branch off the main causes to create deeper levels.
  6. When complete, your fishbone diagram should provide you with a broad understanding of the potential underlying causes of the problem you’re experiencing, enabling you to rank them or decide which may be the most likely.

That said, make sure not to have too many bones. Long explanations or too many little bones can be confusing and distracting, defeating the whole point of the fishbone diagram.

Blank Fishbone Diagrams

Steps to Creating Fishbone Diagram Templates

Step 1: Identify the problem

Defining problems correctly is the first step in problem-solving and the secret to a good fishbone diagram.

When a problem is accurately described, it is easier to pinpoint the root reasons directly impacting the statistic. It also promotes data analysis to establish whether an issue exists or not.

Tips to identifying problems in your company

It’s crucial to accurately characterize your output if you’re utilizing the fishbone diagram to build a process or boost productivity. Goals should be realistic and objective.

The issue should be positioned on the diagram’s right side. After that, you can decide how to complete it. The concept is that the bones in the diagram represent the consequences of the causes.

The causes with the highest effects should go closer to the fish’s head, while those with lower effects should go farther away. You can choose the right side and create causes in the area to the left, or you can do it the other way around. Just keep in mind the impact concept of the bones.

Step 2: Select the major causes categories

After the issue has been clearly described, one must select which aspects of the issue or process are crucial for identifying the root cause. These may be original to your fishbone or prefabricated.

Three important factors to think about might be: 

  1. Business operations
  2. Supply chain
  3. Sales

Most likely, causes would fall into one of these three categories if one were to start thinking about them.

You may include marketing as a fourth area if it has a significant impact on your retention rates. You can have as many regions as you want, but it’s best to keep it to a maximum of 10 for simplicity.

Tips for selecting major causes

For many industries, a template that outlines these key areas is already accessible. The most common six Ms are used in manufacturing. These include:

  • Method
  • Man
  • Machine
  • Material
  • Mother nature
  • Measurement

The service and marketing sectors employ the 5 S’s and 8 P’s. These serve as a good place to start when streamlining a problem.

The 5 S’s include:

  • Sort
  • Standardize
  • Straighten
  • Sanitize
  • Sustain

And the 8 P’s include: 

  • Process
  • Product
  • Price
  • Promotion
  • Place
  • People
  • Positioning
  • Performance

Step 3: Break down each cause

Now that the causes have been identified, we examine each one to find all the distinct effects that might impact our output. We review each category and list every possible item that fits there.

These issues might look like: 

  • Disrupted business models.
  • Reputational issues.
  • Difficulty in building a customer base.
  • Failure to hire the right people.
  • Lack of quantitative data.
  • Lack of value in the product or service.
  • Uncertainty about the future.

These are but a few possible reasons. Your fishbone diagram should include as many diverse causes as you can think of. Though some regions of your fishbone will have more causes than others, not every location needs to have reasons stated (particularly when utilizing a template).

You now have a place to start when identifying the root cause of an issue. You must study each factor to determine its true impact on your output in order to move forward.

Tips for identifying the root cause

To come up with stronger causes for your fishbone diagram, think about holding a brainstorming session or creating a process map with your team.

Invite other team members and employees to participate in the process to guarantee that all probable causes are found.

Employ multiple sub-causes for some of the main causes. Hierarchically enlarge your fishbone diagram to include all potential causes.

Step 4: Use tools to make future plans

As previously stated, drawing a fishbone diagram alone does not produce solutions. To determine each cause’s impact on output and finally choose the causes you want to regulate, further tools are required.

  1. Process Chart
    A process map is a flowchart of a particular system that displays all of its inputs and outputs. It functions well in fields like manufacturing, where each product must go through a well-defined process with distinct steps.
    Process mapping entails noting all potential factors and dissecting each phase of the process individually. This might entail being present on the production line, watching the system in operation, and making notes as you go, in a real manufacturing setting.
    A process map is a highly useful tool for ensuring that all system phases and variables are taken into account. By developing a process map, you may readily identify potential causes and include them in your fishbone diagram.
  2. Brainstorming mind map
    Today’s corporations often employ brainstorming as a technique. Include others in the process rather than focusing solely on your own analysis of the components of a fishbone diagram. Working alone makes it easy to miss some details while entirely ignoring others.
    A brainstorming session should be a well-defined gathering where role-players for problems attend. The session needs to be led by someone who will keep track of suggestions made by team members and allot time for discussion of issues on which there isn’t agreement.
    The secret to a productive brainstorming session is striking a balance between a scheduled meeting and making sure all pertinent issues are covered. A list of causes for your fishbone diagram would be the primary result of a brainstorming session.
    Once your fishbone diagram is complete, ensure all team members understand what to do next. This can entail assigning tasks to other team members and ensuring that precise timelines are established to enable follow-up.
  3. Advice for future planning:
    Create a cause-and-effect matrix with your team if you need clarification on what causes to look into. Using a team’s collective experience, reasons are evaluated from most important to least important.
    The ‘five whys’ technique can be used to delve further if you’re interested in addressing the core cause of a problem rather than merely a symptom.

Step 4: Collaborate remotely on a fishbone diagram

The effectiveness of fishbone diagrams increases with the number of persons involved in their construction. This might be challenging for many people who telecommute or collaborate in teams across different regions.

Generate and explore the Miro online whiteboard or Google Docs for real-time collaboration on a fishbone diagram maker. You may use the pre-made fishbone diagram template and built-in video and audio features without having to pay for additional software.

Pros and cons of fishbone diagrams


  • Easy to draw, create, understand, and interpret.
  • Easy to spot any gaps, trends, or patterns in the problem statement.
  • Encourages creativity and imagination in bringing possible solutions.
  • Excellent tool for mind mapping and brainstorming ideas, whether alone or in a group project.
  • It can make the variables’ connections more straightforward and aid in determining causal linkages.
  • Asking “why” questions repeatedly gets to the heart of situations and simplifies complex problems.


  • Fishbone diagrams can result in inaccurate or inconsistent findings if the wrong root cause assumptions are made or the inappropriate variables aren’t given priority.
  • Fishbone diagrams work best with short sentences or straightforward concepts because they have a tendency to become cluttered and confusing.
  • Since they can only give suggestions rather than actual solutions, they are most effective during the exploratory inquiry stage.

Alternative Tools to Use in Problem-Solving

There are other root cause analysis tools besides fishbone diagrams. You might also employ The 5 Whys, a Pareto chart, or a fault tree analysis depending on the circumstances.

The Pareto chart is a graphical tool that displays the frequency or impact of various causes of an issue. In contrast, the 5 Whys is a straightforward strategy that entails questioning why a problem happens until you find the core reason. The fault tree analysis is an analytical tool that displays potential failure modes and the events that result in a problem.

The type and extent of the issue, target audience, resources, and time constraints all play a role in selecting the best root cause analysis tool. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to root cause analysis; you might need to combine or modify different techniques to meet your situation and requirements.

Ultimately, you should employ the appropriate methods for your issue, goal, audience, and available resources.


A fishbone diagram can be helpful in any situation where you need to understand several contributing components. Try to perform something slowly before you fully comprehend the system.

Make sure your effort will address the critical issues and bring value by taking the time to create a fishbone diagram.

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Tagged:BusinessDiagramFishbone Diagram
TemplateLab July 1st, 2023
Rita Akekelwa
Rita Akekelwa