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Cause and Effect Map: Tips for Managers

A Cause And Effect Map is an easy tool that can help you to direct your action when problem-solving. Below we discuss:

1. Why you would use a Cause And Effect Map.
2. The Five Steps to creating a successful Cause And Effect Map.
3. The three things to remember when using a Cause And Effect Map.

Why Use a Cause And Effect Map?

• A Cause And Effect Map will help you to find and address root causes of a problem, not just the symptoms.
• To identify cases where several causes for a problem may exist.
• A Cause And Effect Map lets a team focus on the current reality of the problem, not on the history of the problem, or the different personal opinions of group members.

5 Steps to a Successful Cause And Effect Map:

1. Create a clear problem statement
2. Brainstorm potential causes
3. Draw Fishbone Diagram
4. Ask "Why?"
5. Take Action

Create a Clear Problem or Goal Statement for Your Cause And Effect Map

• What is the problem (use specific terms)?
• Where has the problem occurred?
• When has the problem occurred?
• How much? How can you quantify the problem?
• Use numbers whenever possible.
• Ensure all participants have a clear understanding of the problem statement. Your Cause And Effect Map will be useless if people don’t clearly understand what problem they are trying to fix.

Brainstorm Potential Causes to the Problem Statement on your Cause And Effect Map

• Begin with “Green Light” thinking. Your Cause And Effect Map will be much more effective if you generate ideas without judgment at first.
• Do ahead of time or together. You may want group members to think ahead of time about possible causes, but you can still create an effective Cause And Effect Map by doing it together as a group.
• Use Post-It-Notes. One alternative for your Cause And Effect Map is to have group members write down one possible cause on each of several Post-It notes. This will let you to more easily group and move ideas between categories.
• Put brainstormed causes into possible categories. You can do this either by labeling causes, and listing causes below the label, or conversely they can be grouped into categories, and then create a label based on the ideas contained in that grouping.
• Apply more critical or “Red Light” thinking as you are sorting the possible causes into groups.

Draw a Fishbone Diagram and put in categories

Your Cause and Effect Map will begin to take shape when you draw your fishbone diagram, and label the individual “bones”. Here are some standard categories found on a Cause And Effect Map, but don’t feel limited by this list:

  • Procedures
  • People
  • Measurement
  • Environment
  • Training and knowledge
  • Method
  • Plant or facilities
  • Policy
  • Machinery
  • Information (or lack there of)
  • Performance standards (quality, cost, etc)

** Customize categories to meet the specific needs of your Cause And Effect Map

If you used Post-It notes, you can stick them on the appropriate “bones” of your Cause And Effect Map.

Ask "Why?"

• Begin your Cause And Effect Map by examining each “bone” and asking: What else could be a cause? Why does this happen?
• You will now have a series of causes listed on each “bone”. For each of those causes, you now need to ask “why”.
• Continue to ask why for each cause until the appropriate level of detail is reached.

Move to Action on Your Cause And Effect Map

Your Cause And Effect Map is nothing more than a pretty drawing, unless you decide to do something about it. In some cases, hundreds of causes may have been identified, in which case you will have to identify priorities.

• Look for causes that show up multiple times in several different categories.
• Look for causes that occur frequently.
• Take care of causes you can fix.
• Make the diagram accessible after the meeting for later input.

Improve your leadership skills! Visit www.wilymanager.com for more information about how to create and use a Cause And Effect Map and more Just-in-Time Management Advice

Watch our video about how to create and use a Cause And Effect Map:

Learn More About Creating And Using A Cause And Effect Map

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