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Improving Problem Solving and Focus with Fish Bone Diagrams

The Fish bone Diagram is a common name for the Ishikawa diagram, a simple and highly effective problem solving tool devised by a highly respected Japanese quality expert. Also known as a cause and effect diagram, this is a concept every entrepreneur should be familiar with: it provides a visual way of organizing disparate data as to come up with a solution to a problem, or otherwise achieve a desired outcome. The reasoning behind this diagram is breaking down the intertwined factors which either build up as the problem or could possibly could build up as the solution.

A tool for Dissecting Problems in pursuit of Solutions

By learning how to use fish bone diagrams to create a layout dissecting the task at one, one can benefit from increased perspective on the causes and effect associated with a specific scenario; with such perspective, one should hope to gain the ability to tackle any kind of problem more easily. The purpose of this tool is to break down a complex problem into the simpler underlying causes. The expression fish bone refers to the appearance of this schematics: not unlike a fish skeleton, where the head represents the problem, and each bone sticking out from the vertebra represents factors contributing to the problem.

Keep your focus: Know your Bones

While building up a fish diagram, one will usually start by drawing the head of the fish, along with a set numbers of bones – usually 4, 6, or 8, associated with the manufacturing industry (Machine, Method, Materials, Man, Measurement, and “Mother Nature”), the administration and service industry (Price, Promotion, People, Processes, Place / Plant, Policies, Procedures & Product (or service), and the Service industry specifically (Surroundings, Suppliers, Systems, Skills). For most online entrepreneurs, the latter set of causes – referred to as the 4S’, is likely to be most relevant.

FishBone Diagram Hands-on Example

So, In order to flesh out a cause and effect diagram, you simply draw a fish skeleton with 4 bones, which you’ll tag “Surroundings”, “Suppliers”, “Systems” and “Skills”. For example, let’s imagine the problem you want to study is “My website does not get enough traffic”; first off, you tag the problem in the head of the fish. Now, for each bone, you’ll set additional scales, stemming from that specific cause. In order to do this, a brainstorm is recommended, where all people involved in both the problem and the solution are expected to come up with every possible facets leading to the specific problem.

Branch out your problems to the Root

So, when discussing the issue of low website traffic with your associates, you’ll focus branch while taking notice of every possible cause stemming down from each aspect of the problem. For example, while considering the first branch “Surroundings”, three important sub-branches would be “few inbound links”, “ineffective social media marketing”, and “Lack of visitor engagement”. Now, once you consider each sub-branch, it becomes easier to isolate specific actions that should be   taken to clear the bigger problem. Some examples would be “make link exchanges”, “create link bait”, “develop social media profiles”, “video broadcast”, “Create newsletter”, “Create forum”. As you can see, at this point one clearly gets a sense of actual things that should be done in order to tackle the problem.

The Golden Rule for effective Brainstorming

While brainstorming the possible causes behind each bone in the cause and effect diagram, it’s important to keep an open mind; at this stage, no possible cause should be discarded without careful consideration. The main purpose behind the fish bone diagram is to scrutinize all causes underlying a specific problem, some of which are likely to be unexpectedly subtle. For an optimum effect, a maximum possible causes should be considered, all of which should be clearly organized within the diagram. The Golden Rule for an effective brainstorming is quite simple: don’t hold back any idea that comes to mind, just put in on the table for everyone to consider; brainstormings are meant to be catharses, not organized efforts.

A tool is no good unless you can use it

Once you’ve completed a fish bone diagram focusing a specific problem you’re currently faced with, what you’ll get is nothing short of a road map, showing which steps should be completed in order to make sure the problem is overcome. While this is by no means a magical tool that will instantly dismiss your problems, it’s definitely a highly relevant tool which will help you organize your thought and get insight into something which prevents your business from running full speed. If you’re currently faced with troubles which look too complex to be sorted out, you should experiment with this strategy, since it might just help you get started on the way to a possible solution.

[tags] fishbone diagram [/tags]

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