Rarely does everyone on a team agree on the possible causes for a particular problem. Using a fishbone diagram can bring a team together by soliciting everyone’s input. The result is an easily understood, graphical view of the possible causes generated by the team.
The best way to understand a fishbone diagram is to look at an actual example (if you only need a template, this Fishbone Diagram Template was used for creating the four latest examples on this site). In this case, a call center team is focused on reducing customer call times that exceed two minutes.
The call center’s team leader knew that there were many possible causes (and opinions!) about the reasons for excessive call times, so she pulled the team together and used the fishbone diagram method to collect and organize possible causes.
1. Problem Statement
The problem statement was first placed at the “head of the fish.” In this case, the problem statement is, “Call Times Exceeding Two Minutes.”
Before the “skeleton” of the fishbone diagram was filled in, the team took a few minutes to brainstorm possible causes for excessive call times. They used the affinity process and grouped the possible causes into three major categories: (a) customer service rep knowledge, (b) customer knowledge, and (c) call center environment.
3. Completing the Diagram
In total, eight possible causes were assigned to the three groups above. The causes included things like call center training, customer education, and creating a better call center environment.
4. What Happens Next?
Of course, a fishbone diagram by itself will not solve a problem. Further analysis and action are needed to make true change, but as the saying goes, “A problem well defined is a problem half solved!” In this case, the team decided to collect data for two weeks by using a check sheet designed from the fishbone diagram, and the team tallied up the reasons for all calls exceeding two minutes. Using the team’s data, a Pareto Chart was constructed and the team implemented fixes that reduced excessive call times by 72%.