The fishbone diagram identifies many possible causes for an effect or problem. It can be used to structure a creative thinking session and helps sort ideas into useful categories. Causes are usually grouped into major categories to identify these sources of variation. The categories typically include:

  • People: Anyone involved with the process.
  • Methods: How the process is performed and the specific requirements for doing it, such as policies, procedures, rules, regulations and laws.
  • Machines: Any equipment, computers, tools, etc. required to accomplish the job.
  • Materials: Raw materials, parts, pens, paper, etc. used to produce the final product.
  • Measurements: Data generated from the process that are used to evaluate its quality.
  • Environment: The conditions, such as location, time, temperature, and culture in which the process operates.

Alpha Swanson use this tool regularly to help clients in a Root Cause Analysis situation.