Fishbone Diagram Tutorial

A fishbone diagram is a powerful problem-solving tool used in healthcare, engineering, and many other industries. Find out how you can use Lucidchart to construct one.

Want to make a Fishbone Diagram of your own? Try Lucidchart. It's quick, easy, and completely free.
Make a Fishbone Diagram

What is a fishbone diagram?

A fishbone diagram is also known as an Ishikawa diagram, herringbone diagram, or cause-and-effect diagram. This is because it describes the potential causes of a given problem or outcome. The diagram resembles an actual fish bone, with a long line running down the center pointing to the main outcome, also called the "problem statement". The other bones branch out from the middle bone and represent different categories of causes. In the template below, we've shown the six standard categories, Measurements, Materials, People, Machine, Methods, and Environment. However, feel free to swap these out for categories that best fit your problem.

What is a cause and effect analysis?

A cause and effect diagram is also known as a fishbone diagram due to its appearance. Cause and effect analysis can be used in a wide variety of industries, including engineering, marketing, and manufacturing. It was invented by Kaoru Ishikawa as a way to pinpoint contributing factors in business problems, especially in the field of industrial manufacturing. When conducting cause and effect analysis, teams start with a problem or challenge, then look at which roadblocks stand in the way of success.

Make a fishbone diagram in Lucidchart

You can make your own fishbone diagram with Lucidchart. To design the skeleton, simply use the line tool by clicking the "L" key. A crosshair will appear and let you draw a line. Easily add lines to the template below, and then drag out text boxes onto the lines to properly label them. Lucidchart also supports a variety of convenient features that make diagramming easy, like draggable resizing, pop-out context menus, and custom image upload. And once you’ve finished perfecting your diagram, you can share or publish it online.

How to create a fishbone diagram

It’s simple to create your own cause and effect analysis example by using Lucidchart. It’s professional diagramming software that runs seamlessly in your browser. This example shows the brainstorming process for a marketing team that’s trying to understand why website traffic has dipped. Open our editable template to start tackling your own business’s obstacles.


Get started in Lucidchart

1. Register for a Lucidchart account.

2. Navigate to My Documents.

3. Click Create > New Document.

4. Explore and start with a fishbone diagram template or create a new document in Lucidchart.

Determine your problem statement

5. The first thing you need for your fishbone diagram is a problem statement. Since fishbone diagrams are used to analyze cause-and-effect relationships, the problem statement is your final effect or result. Drag out a box from the toolbox in Lucidchart (it’s accessible from the left side of the screen), then double-click to label it accordingly. Depending on your industry and use case, the problem could be anything from “shipments arrive late” to “patient readmitted to the hospital.” Once you have the problem statement, draw a line out from it. Your line will be shorter or longer depending on how many categories you want to include.


List categories

6.  Next, you’ll add lines and corresponding boxes to show the categories of causes for your problem statement. It might be helpful here to think backwards. First, determine all the potential causes for a problem, and then group them into categories. The traditional categories for a fishbone diagram are the six M's:

  • Machines

  • Methods

  • Materials

  • Measurements

  • Mother Nature

  • Manpower

If you’re not sure what to include, these categories are a great first step. You are also free to choose your own, more specific categories, depending on what best fits your diagram.

Add causes

7. To add causes, draw new lines from the category lines and label them with text boxes. To draw a line without dragging it out from a shape, simply hold down the L key and crosshairs will appear. Click on any line again to angle it or rotate it. Remember to add as many causes as you can think of, even if some of them are less likely to occur than others. The more details you have, the easier it will be to analyze your problem.

fishbone diagram template

Review your work

After you’ve completed the document, it’s time to review. Make sure your text is error-free and large enough to read. Did you include all relevant information, and is it organized under the right categories? Try sending a URL to a colleague and inviting them to comment or collaborate with you.