Fishbone Analysis

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A – Z Coaching and Mentoring – This week’s extract explores ‘Fishbone Analysis’, created by Kaoru Ishikawa, as a useful tool for drilling down to identify root causes of a problem.

Don’t forget if you have a special request for a definition of a coaching term or principle, just let us know! Perfect for anyone studying for an ILM Coaching & Mentoring qualification, or as a refresher for experienced coaches.


Fishbone Analysis (also called Ishikawa, herringbone, cause-and-effect diagrams or Fishikawa) is a tool created by Kaoru Ishikawa in 1968 as part of his pioneering work on total quality management in the shipyards of Kawasaki in Japan.

It is a convergent thinking tool for drilling down to identify root causes of a problem. Very often problems are stated in general terms. By drilling down it can be possible to identify smaller aspects of the problem where it is easier to take action or find solutions.

By solving a small part there can be positive knock on effect to other aspects of the problem, therefore reducing the scale of the problem or solving it completely.


  • Highly visual brainstorming tool which can spark further examples of root causes
  • Quickly identify if the root cause is found multiple times in the same or different causal tree
  • Allows one to see all causes simultaneously
  • Good visualisation for presenting issues


  • Complex issues might yield a lot of causes which might become visually cluttering
  • Interrelationships between causes are not easily identifiable

Taken from the A-Z Coaching Handbook by Clare Smale where you will find a comprehensive A-Z, plus a full list of references.

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