A fishbone might save your business

Actions have consequences.

I loved using Ishikawa or “Fishbone” diagrams (named after Kaoru Ishikawa who became one of the guru’s of modern management in the 1960s after he pioneered the use of them in quality management processes in the Kawasaki shipyards). It was like peeling an onion, carefully taking each layer of a problem and figuring out what had caused the problems we were seeing at the time so that we understood the cause. Once we understood the cause we could decide what our next course of action was; was it something we could fix and move on, or had something changed meaning that our landscape had altered and our course of action needed to change?

Beautifully simple.

Has this thinking gone out of fashion?

Take Eastman Kodak, so sad to see a company with such heritage file for bankruptcy. A company with the innovative intelligence to invent the first digital camera but lacking the business intelligence to understand the effect of that innovation in the market and how to use it to change its own destiny. Too scared to embrace the fact that this new technology would cannibalise its already successful business, it went for the alternative… made ill thought through decisions, didn’t look at the ongoing effect in the market, didn’t change, just died.

Do we like to react and respond more than we like to understand the real problems and what we can do to solve them?


So, draw one cartoon like fishbone with a big head (see picture at the end of the post).

Take one problem and put the word WHY in front of it e.g. Why are sales of film declining?

Make this question the head of the fish. This is the effect or the consequence of an action.

Brainstorm all the reasons why that problem is happening e.g. all the reasons why the sales of film could be declining and attach them to the bones (branches) coming off the head of the fish. You can group reasons together if you have lots are that relating to the same thing e.g. new technology…

For each branch of the fishbone, dig deeper into what is happening and ask WHY again, creating spurs off each branch until you feel you understand what is happening.

Take time to take this in and decide on your course of action.

Let me know how it goes.

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