Fishbone Diagram

This model provides a highly visual problem-solving tool, which can assist in finding if the problem can be found multiple times in the same or different branch. The branch offshoots can spread to as many sub levels as needed. Understanding the contributing factors of an issue can help develop actions that assist in remediation. The contributing factors can also be ranked according to their severity so that more pressing subcauses are addressed first.

Root cause analysis typically incorporates the voices of the full range of individuals who have roles or perspectives on the problem of practice, which may include administrators, faculty, other school staff and external stakeholders. Common strategies for gathering the input of many people are to use sticky notes to identify causes and to ask participants to vote for the top causes for which they believe improvements should be made.

How to

  1. Write the problem of practice related to corequisite remediation at the mouth of the fish.
  2. Figure out what categories of things might contribute to a particular problem. One possible set of categories could include students, college staff, rules, policies and procedures, and facilities and supplies.
  3. Ask “Why does this happen?” to identify different causes of the problem and record these causes on the “bones” of the fish.
  4. Identify sub-causes underlying the initial set of causes recorded in the diagram and keep breaking the issue down until participants cannot think of any additional causes.
  5. Select (or rank) the branches where stakeholders see the most potential for improvement (i.e., changes can be made in how things are done, and these changes are likely to help address the particular issue), and list out specific improvements that can be tested.

We also provide a PDF format document containing a blank fishbone diagram that can be downloaded and printed.