You can facilitate KPI (Key Performance Indicators) during meetings by using root-cause analysis. Also referred to as Ishikawa or “fishbone” diagrams, the method generates a visual mind map listing possible causes. Named after Professor Kaoru Ishakawa (University of Tokyo), he developed the process in 1945 to resolve steel production problems.  Fishbone diagrams support analysis, identify gaps, provide insight about possible SMART criteria (ie, Specific, Measurable, Adjustable, Relevant, and Time-Based), and make assignments for follow-up activities and proactive change designs.

Jack Welsh, CEO Emeritus for the General Electric Company, instilled his organization with an understanding that “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”  You can facilitate KPI or almost every “fuzzy factor” and then convert to SMART criteria.  Prioritized criteria form the foundation for major initiatives around Balanced Scorecard, dashboard techniques, portfolio decisions, and other essential corporate processes such as idea management and prioritization.

Here are the workshop steps to facilitate KPI and build a simple cause and effect diagram:

  1. In advance, prepare the following drawing (devoid of content) using either multiple sheets of paper, or some professional drawing tool.

Facilitate KPI through an Illustrative Fishbone Diagram

  1. Use the objectives of the project to identify the “primary effect” or end result that needs to be changed. Decide on a trigger or a one-word label that captures the meaning of the full definition. In the example above, the term “CHANGE” captures the effect being analyzed. Based on importance and time limitations, constrain the total number of “causes”, typically between eight and twelve total. As a practical activity, you may also focus on fewer, even one or two primary effects, or four as illustrated.
  2. To facilitate KPI, potential root causes are now focused within each causal area. You may launch a brainstorming activity of all possible causes, and then assign codes to help the team categorize them. Most approaches to cause and effect diagrams begin with four likely categories of causes. Although you can experiment with the labels, four categories frequently used for potential causes include:
  • Tools: Traditionally seen as the technology or equipment that leads to error, but could also reflect tangible resources that provide possible causes
  • Method: Isolates the activities or tasks that might be the source of concern or the opportunity for improvement
  • People: Intends to capture the group relationships and quality of decisions made
  • Data: Traditionally seen as the information required to support the cause

You might also use breakout teams and assign one or more causal categories. Optimally, determine in a large group setting the most important category of causes and develop it as a large group. Then assign the less important categories to sub-teams or work offline for additional development.

  • During a break, lunchtime, or evening, create an illustration of your diagram. Provide your workshop participants with full narrative definitions for each of the labels used in your fishbone diagram.
  • Depending on time constraints, lead your analysis activity either by beginning with the most important causes, taking all of the causes within a category, or perhaps grab the easiest to manage, the “low-hanging” fruit. Determine clear and simple questions in advance to lead analysis and know what you intend to do with the analysis.  Understand clearly the type of documentation required to satisfy your deliverables. For example, if you are leading up to a RASI (ie, roles and responsibilities) chart, then articulate the next steps or activities that need to be assigned.

Building a fishbone diagram generates consensus that gets built around the assumptions. Once your participants understand the question, agree on the cause and effect behind the potential answers. You will find it is much easier to build consensus around priorities and next steps.  Carefully identify WHO does WHAT by WHEN to design for change.

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Building consensus helps groups identify gaps, omissions, overkill, and confirm the appropriateness and balance of their action plan.

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