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They are often used in tandem. First you can brainstorm potential root causes and then “affinitize” them into groups. Those groups can then become the bones of a fishbone and you can both spread out the potential root causes on the “bones” and start using the 5 Whys on select issues. The idea is to do some “structured” brainstorming, and the “bones” or categories of the fish create that structure.

Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Managing Partner & Executive Advisor at For over 25 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Starwood Hotels & Resorts build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.