What is a Fishbone diagram?

A Fishbone diagram, also referred to as an Ishikawa diagram, is a fish-shaped map that is used as a tool for problem-solving and getting to the root cause of an issue. It’s often used by large-scale teams, but can work for anyone.

Originally, the Fishbone diagram was created by Kaoru Ishikawa from Japan for quality management and to find cause and effect (Source).

The diagram is traditionally shaped like the skeleton of a fish, with a head, spine, and various bones that stick out from the spine. Typically, teams add more and more ‘bones’ until they come up with solutions.

“It enables the team to focus on why the problem occurs, and not on the history or symptoms of the problem, or other topics that digress from the intent of the session.” (Source)

How does a Fishbone diagram work?

The first step to using a Fishbone diagram is identifying the problem or issue that needs to be solved and writing it on the fish head.

Teams will then structure their meeting by following a set of categories that their ideas will branch off from. The most common categories are: People, Method, Machine, Material, and Environment — but you can come up with any category titles that fit the problem you are trying to solve. These categories are written down as main branches that come off of the ‘spine’ of the fish.

Next, you and your team will write down all of the causes of your problem by using the categories as your guide. It is important to determine what factors contributed to those causes. Add these factors as even smaller lines deriving from the ‘bones’.

The diagram will get more and more detailed as your team continues to discuss the issue until you are able to dig down into the root cause. Once the root cause is identified, your team can begin finding solutions to the problem!


Stormboard + Fishbone

Stormboard’s Fishbone template makes it easy for your team to set up your meeting using this method quickly — all you have to do is add your ideas!

To implement the Fishbone template, you will first have to sign up for a Stormboard account (or FREE 30-day trial) via our pricing page. If you already have an account, log in to use the template in an existing or new Storm.

Click the “Create a Storm” (what we call your digital workspace) button on the top left-hand corner of your dashboard (shown below).

Once you have named your Storm, you will be able to search the template gallery for the Fishbone template. Type in ‘Fishbone’ in the search bar and it will appear for you to select it. This will apply the template to your Storm.

The template is laid out so that you and your team can create and place sticky notes and other text in the desired categories or areas of the diagram.

Categories go at the top of the ‘bones’ (lines) and sticky notes can be placed along the different lines — or anywhere else on the diagram.

To add the problem on the fish ‘head’ and the categories on the ‘bones’, go to the upper right-hand corner of your template and click on the small pencil button, and click ‘Edit’ (shown below).

This will open a smaller window with different tabs. Choose the ‘Type’ tab, and it will let you fill out the problem and categories (shown below).

Make sure to click save when you’re done filling it out! From there, start adding your ideas using sticky notes along the ‘bones’. An example of a filled-out Fishbone template can be seen in the example below.


You can also change the color of your Fishbone template at any time, just like we did with the example above! To do this, click on the small pencil icon, and then the ‘Edit’ button in the upper right-hand corner (the same one as before), and under the ‘General’ tab, change the color using the ‘Header Color’ drop-down menu (shown below). Once you select a color you like, hit ‘Save’.

Once your meeting is complete, or you are taking a break from your work, there is no need to hit ‘save’ on your Storm, as everything in Stormboard automatically saves to the cloud. And, the best part is that members of your team can continue to work from anywhere, at any time, and all changes will be recorded in your ‘Activity’ tab.

If your team needs to structure brainstorming sessions to try and find the ultimate root cause of an issue, the Fishbone template is ideal.


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Does your team want to try our Fishbone template? Sign up for Stormboard today!