What is a “Cause and Effect Diagram”?

A cause-effect diagram tool (also C&E Diagram) can be used for example in categories to organize the possible causes of a problem or effect. It is displayed graphically and suggests causal relationships between theories. Another popular type is the Ishikawa or fishbone diagram. A tree diagram can be used to diagram cause-effect.

A cause-effect diagram is useful for organizing theories and presenting them graphically when trying to determine the root cause of a problem.

C-E Diagrams are a key tool used in the initial stages of improvement teams. Diagrams are created from ideas that have been generated through brainstorming and affinity processes. The list of possible causes on a C–E can be quite long so the team should prioritize or use multi-vote techniques to reduce it.

The “Effect” is what the team is studying. The team came up with possible causes. The skeleton is made up of the possible causes. The headers represent the column heads in the affinity diagram.

Example of a Cause and Effect Diagram

A cause-effect diagram example shows that each cause can have multiple causes. Flat tires can be caused by a nail or rock, glass, or even a blowout due to material failure. If necessary, further steps can be traced back in the causal chain. A mechanical failure could cause a loss of control. This failure could be caused by a brake failure. Fluid loss or worn pads may also lead to fluid loss. This diagram can be augmented by other factors.

  • It’s a visual representation that shows the possible factors that could contribute to an observed effect.
  • It is clear to see the interrelationships between possible causal factors. The diagram may show one causal factor at a time. If temperature has a significant effect on both physical dimensions and moisture content, temperature could be found in both.
  • Interrelationships can be both qualitative and hypothetical.

A cause and effect diagram is often prepared to help in developing data that can be used to prove causation empirically.

Key Concepts of C&E Diagram

  1. Although a cause-effect diagram can’t identify the root cause, it illustrates the possible causes.
  2. It’s a visual representation that shows the possible factors that could contribute to the observed effect being studied.
  3. It is clear to see the interrelationships between possible causal factors. The diagram may show one causal factor at multiple places.
  4. Interrelationships can be both qualitative and hypothetical.
  5. It directs all members of the team’s attention to the problem in a systematic, structured way.

Relationship between C&E Diagram

Clear understanding of the cause and effect relationship is the most important factor in creating cause-effect diagram categories.

Once the diagram is completed, one should find a way to read it backwards. You can also read the diagram backwards from the explanation of the phenomenon: “The slippery road caused the car to lose control.” It had snow, which made the road slippery. This diagram should be able to be read in any branch. Although we may not be able to prove the cause, the statement should be logical.

All possible causes of causation must be considered. There are at most four possible causes for any problem.

  1. Machines and materials are examples of objects
  2. Conditions like motivations, temperature or level of need
  3. The process is timed, such as the day’s end or the production sequence
  4. These are the effects of place, such as a specific production line, the loading Dock, distributor or branch office.

These are the four W’s (what, why, when and where) of cause and effect. They should be asked constantly. Teams that use cause-effect diagrams also have two additional lists. These help them to remember to think about the many possible causes of a problem. These lists can be described as the 5 M’s of manufacturing and 5 P’s for services.

  1. Manpower: People (employees).
  2. Materials (supplies).
  3. Methods
  4. Machines: Place (environment)
  5. Measurements: Patrons (customers).

The W’s and M’s have been helpful in helping people remember to take into account all possible causes. However, there is no magic in these words and not all cases will be the same. These lists may be helpful for you, or you might create your own. It is important to think about all possible causes. Ask questions like, “What procedures are we using that could cause this problem?”

The Cause and Effect Diagram Tool’s Key Strengths

This cause and effect diagram tool has a major advantage in that it directs everyone’s attention to the problem in a systematic and structured manner with categories. This tool encourages creativity and keeps the team on track. You can apply the 5 Whys to your brainstormed theories in order to find root causes.

This tool’s second strength is its ability to graphically represent complex situations, allowing for clear relationships between elements. The cause-effect diagram is a way to organize complex interactions between many causes that could affect a problem.

The C-E diagram is also capable of communicating with others.