There are many factors that influence the success or failure of a business, product or service. It helps to have a visual representation of the factors that have an influence. A fishbone diagram is used by businesses to help determine cause and effect relationships.


Kaoru Ishikawa is considered one of the pioneers of quality management. His creation and use of the fishbone diagram are one of the most vital tools used in the quality management arena. The diagram has been used since World War II.


The head of the fishbone lists the problem or effect. Each of the bones represents major causes of the problem. The smaller bones list the minor causes of the problem.


The format of the diagram is easy-to-read format. The construction of the diagram encourages group participation and places the focus on the causes of a problem.


The weakness of using a fishbone diagram is that it is not beneficial when the problems and causes are complex and interrelated.


A fishbone diagram is typically a beginning step of problem analysis. Other quality control tools such as control charts and detailed process maps can be a "next step" in solving business problems.