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  • Writer's picturehidet77

Go to Genba; A message behind Ishikawa diagram

Do you still want to use the Fishbone diagram as a brainstorming tool?

Of course. Ishikawa himself talked about using such a tool.

But what was his message?

My takeaway.

“Stop. Go to the Genba.”

“Stop. Go to the Genba.” This is a phrase I repeatedly use to make brainstorming successful.

“Stop. Go to the Genba.”

Before brainstorming, go to the Genba and ask the following question.

“Are the standards clear and followed?”

Very often, somewhere in the fishbone diagram, we see a concern that a standard is not followed. If there is such a concern, stop brainstorming and restore the standards immediately. It is a waste of time to continue brainstorming under such conditions. Standards are the foundations of management. If those are not respected, nothing will work.

I have heard arguments like “We are going to implement a poke-yoke.” But poke-yoke requires standards.

  • Poka-yoke requires work standards and standardized work to function.

  • Poka-yoke requires testing standards, like red rabbit testing, to prove it is functioning.

  • Poka-yoke requires maintenance standards to avoid errors from wear and tear.

Solutions will only function when standards are respected. It is not a scientific environment.

A plant manager saw in a fishbone diagram that one of the standards was not respected.

“This is 100% my fault. I didn’t see this. I must restore this.”

From that moment, he walked around the factory with its direct reports to restore the standards. Visualizing the standards so that anyone can see them. The plant manager was repeated that sustaining the standards are manager’s responsibility.

When conducting the brainstorming, it is critical to collect a diverse group of people. From operators to engineers, managers should join. Each participant in the session should be allowed to express their opinions.

“Stop. Go to the Genba.”

One of the common mistakes is that the team tries to come up with tens and hundreds of factors that contributed to the problem. Ishikawa says they should never try to complete it in one session. Instead, repeat the sessions as long as it takes. By the time each member has expressed one factor, it is enough.

“Stop. Go to the Genba.”

Once the factors are out, Ishikawa states that the team should take the fishbone diagram and confirm the actual conditions of the shop floor. The discussion that he suggests having on each factor should take place on the shop floor. This way, what the team is talking about is clear. Also, he mentions that when there are items that the group sees the need to Kaizen or standardize, this should happen immediately. The objective of the brainstorming is not to complete the fishbone diagram in a beautiful format. The aim is to improve the problem.

For those factors for which the team can’t determine the impact on the problem, they must use data or conduct the design of experiments.

“Stop. Go to the Genba.”

Data is valuable if it is collected under specific conditions. For example, data has no meaning if the data collection method has changed in the middle. Are we collecting data from the shop floor in a standardized way?

The same is true for the design of the experiment. To conduct a good experiment, all factors other than the one you want to test must be under control, and such conditions must be repeated. Randomly changing factors are not the condition in which experiments should be conducted.

This is the reason why we must respect the standards in operations. It is a prerequisite for the fishbone diagram brainstorming. Ishikawa was a chemical engineer. He knows scientific experiments and was trying to approach quality management similarly. The difference is that he welcomed the ideas of the mass. However, the ideas of the mass still needed to be verified scientifically on the shop floor. The fishbone diagram is a summary of the hypothesis and its results. It is like navigation on the shop floor which has many factors. Another terminology in TPS is called “Changepoint management,” which is based on very similar thinking.

“Stop. Go to the Genba.”

A fishbone diagram is not a product from a meeting room but from the shop floor. That’s why I constantly repeat the phrase.

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May 02, 2023

Thank you again for wonderful, thought-provoking posts. Reading the original Ishikawa texts (admittedly English translations, so we may lose some nuance), the Ishikawa diagram is, in my reading, foremost a brainstorming tool to direct data gathering efforts. (Happy to share my thoughts on this on request or other forums.)

Too sadly I see Ishikawa Diagrams used as a problem-solving tool.

I have seen a senior management team at a global blue-chip company 'solve' a problem by generating an Ishikawa diagram in 30 minutes based on their ideas (and prejudices, biases etc), then vote on the most likely cause in the next 10 minutes, then put forward ideas and decide on solutions in the last 10 minutes of the meeting. All facilitated…

May 03, 2023
Replying to

I made a post on how Ishikawa used it originally.

It was not a brainstorming tool at the beginning.

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