Six Sigma Tools for continuous quality improvement


Root Cause Analysis
Fishbone Diagram template

Excel fishbone template and other root cause analysis tools

Sometimes called a fish diagram, Ishikawa diagram, or cause and effect diagram,
the Root Cause Template is a powerful tool to identify the root causes underlying a problem.

At some time or another, every team needs to "put their heads together". If your group leader isn't all that comfortable with technology, this might involve walls plastered with sticky notes, and someone staying long after the meeting to transcribe the group's decisions and insights.

Root Cause Analysis Fishbone Diagram Excel template Cause and Effect Diagram
fishbone diagram

Your root cause analysis template

makes it easy to:

  1. Quickly record people's ideas as fast as they can generate them

    with 'handwriting' that everyone can read!

  2. Keep asking "why?" until you arrive at root causes of your problem

    so that you can 'dig out the roots' instead of 'hacking at the leaves'

  3. Easily rearrange ideas into logical groups

    spawning even better ideas

Planning ahead

Why use tools?

I'm paid by the hour.

And when the cause and effect analysis session is over...

everyone can get right back to work

because everything is perfectly organized in your fishbone diagram,
ready to email to and socialize with all team members,
and to store electronically for future reference.

Bookmark = Training

Root Cause Analysis Training

Purpose of the fishbone diagram template

To gain clearer understanding of possible root causes,
and to brainstorm ideas for creative solutions to the problem.

Quickly expand your fishbone template workspace

by simply unhiding pre-formatted rows and columns

The most important thing to know about the Systems2win fishbone template is that it is FAST to use.

In the heat of a group brainstorming session,

there is no time for complex or temperamental root cause analysis software.

With your Systems2win fishbone diagram template (RootCause.xlsx),

you can quickly copy similar cells, quickly drag n drop, quickly move things around, quickly resize boxes —
to quickly whip up a professional-looking completed fishbone diagram

and still have time to join the rest of your team for lunch.

Root Cause Analysis template

Sample root cause analysis example

Download free trial root cause analysis template


Notice that you can easily connect multiple arrows in multiple directions
to depict causes that have multiple effects and effects that have multiple causes.

Because that's the way the real world works... right?
Things are rarely as linear and rigid as the thinking of most computer programmers.

How to copy shapes

Master the teachings found in:

  1. The training videos: How to use Excel as a drawing tool Video
  2. The written online training: Tips for using Microsoft Office Drawings.

Helpful Tips

Standard Shapes
  1. It's easier to copy & paste an entire cell (containing a text box and arrow)
    rather than copying text boxes and arrows separately.
  2. Use your snap-to grid.
  3. You can quickly expand your workspace by simply unhiding pre-formatted rows and columns.
  4. Notice that you can easily connect multiple arrows in multiple directions to depict causes that have multiple effects and effects that have multiple causes. (Because that's the way the real world works... right?)
  5. Use colors to communicate!!!
  6. Use the stencil of shapes to highlight, circle, and call attention to important things.
  7. Use bursts and clouds to identify problems and solutions.

There two popular ways to

use your Root Cause Analysis template

You can either:

1) Use a projector

and make the changes where everyone can see them.

2) Use sticky notes on the wall

while an assistant transcribes the results into a more legible version that can then be used for easier editing and Affinity Grouping, and can be electronically archived and emailed to participants after the meeting.

Either way...

Months or years from now — when a similar problem arises...

it's easy for your team leaders to retrieve
your electronically stored fishbone diagram and pick up where you left off.

Easily answer the question

"What were our thoughts when we last considered a similar problem?"

There two popular ways to do


You can either:

  1. Do all of your brainstorming right on the Root Cause Analysis template (RootCause.xlsx)

    Once you know how to use Excel as a drawing tool,
    then the learning curve for this root cause template takes only a few minutes

    (because it is so similar to all of your other Systems2win Excel drawing tools for continuous improvement).

  2. Or do your initial brainstorming using your Brainstorming template (brainstorming.docx) Brainstorming template

    that makes it so easy to re-arrange your ideas into Affinity Groups

Either way...

5 Whys

"A relentless barrage of 'why’s' is the best way to prepare your mind
to pierce the clouded veil of thinking caused by the status quo. Use it often."

~ Shigeo Shingo

Huge bonus feature of your

Systems2win Fishbone Diagram template

You can even import data into text boxes on your fishbone template...

  • From a Systems2win FMEA workbook
  • From a Systems2win brainstorming template  (Tip: copy from Word to Excel, then import)
  • From any Excel worksheet containing any data that you want to quickly import into root cause text boxes

Instructions for how to Import Data to your Fishbone Template

Optional Step 1) Format the 'Import Master Textbox'

Use everything you know about how to format Excel shapes

to format the 'Import Master Textbox' with the desired fonts, colors, or patterns
that you want for the boxes that will contain your imported data.

(to visually differentiate your imported data from the new ideas that your team will soon generate)

Important: Do not move, copy, or delete the Import Master Text Box.
It should remain snapped to the upper left corner of the cell with the dotted border.

Root Cause Analysis - Import Data

Tip: Even if you don't format the Import Master Textbox,
you can still identify imported text boxes by viewing their Alt Text.

Step 2) Import Data

In the Systems2win menu, select 'Import Data'
then browse to select the data range(s) to import

(which might be in another Excel workbook)

Bookmark = methods

Root Cause Analysis Tools

for additional root cause analysis methods

5 Whys

The classic common denominator for any approach to root cause problem solving
is to keep asking repeatedly "why"
until you unearth your root problems.

Thought Map Relations Diagram

Thought Map Relations Diagram

Another approach to root cause analysis is the Relations Diagram,
which also comes with your six sigma templates.

While the Cause and Effect Fishbone Diagram is the right tool
to identify root causes of less complex, linear problems...
the Thought Map Relations Diagram is the right tool
to identify root causes of a complex, nonlinear problem.

8D Problem Solving

8D Report template

The 8D Problem Solving template has yet another approach to root cause analysis.

The 8D Report provides a very thorough system for analyzing mission-critical problems
with root causes that are not immediately obvious —
and is especially effective for processes that span multiple organizations
and teams within the supply chain.

And more

See our online training for multiple problem solving approaches and problem-solving tools.

This fishbone diagram template for Root Cause Analysis
comes with the rest of the Lean Six Sigma tools.


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