Fishbone Diagram

Experiment using root cause analysis as part of problem solving sessions


Participants are invited to brainstorm the possible causes of a symptomatic problem they face within their team/organization by working with their peers. Using Fishbone diagram as root cause analysis tool enables participants to focus on real causes rather than on symptoms.



  • The facilitator writes down the problem to be solved on a sticky note and places it over the fish’s head


  • Participants are invited to use MyBoard to silently write down 3 possible causes (one cause/sticky note) – 3-4 min
  • Participants place the sticky notes on the fishbone board, under the most suitable category: measurements, people, environment, machines, methods, materials.
  • After participants present their own list of causes, the group is invited to deduplicate it.
  • Continue to ask “Why did that happen?” and generate deeper levels of causes. Layers of branches indicate causal relationships.
  • Participants are invited to dot vote on their “preferred” cause using 3 points (no more than 2 points on a cause).
  • Address each cause (or top X) – brainstorm for solutions, within the big group or in smaller teams (using a separate board/activity).

Debrief (suggested)

  • The facilitator may ask the following questions:
    • Prior to completing the diagram, what were teams’ assumptions concerning the root cause for the stated problem?
    • How did assumptions change after completing the diagram?
    • How did teams identify the root cause(s) on which to focus?


Different problems to be solved can be addressed:

  • why are the projects delayed in our organization;
  • why are we constantly missing our deadlines;
  • why didn’t we meet the sales targets;
  • why NPS dropped, et cetera

Additional info

This activity follows activity type guide from CARTA

Play in Colltrain

Choose your language

Fishbone Diagram - root cause analysis
Fishbone Diagram - root cause analysis

Similar Posts