Fantastic Fishbone diagram – a lean tool
We did our PD testing a couple of weeks ago and our empty rates this season were well above our target of 7% despite having an amazing season, lots of feed, great above average weights, excellent production, good results for our submissions etc. So it was very disappointing. We have to remember this is a defect so a waste for our business. We could have said “oh well, hopefully we do better next season”. Or we could have just jumped to a conclusion of why our result was what it was.
Structured problem solving – the lean way
Instead last week during our weekly Continuous Improvement session we did the lean thing – to do a structured brainstorming session with the whole team using a problem solving tool that has been around for 100 years! The fishbone (also know as Ishikawa diagram or cause and effect diagram) is extremely effective and simple and helps you to visualise a problem, and brainstorm all potential causes of a particular problem.
Explore all potential causes
There are so many possible contributing factors to a particular problem and it is very easy in farming to just jump to the most obvious factor and potentially ignore the real cause, hence never really solving a problem. Doing a brainstorming session like this helps the team to start to appreciate and become aware of the many complexities in farming and the vast variety of factors that can determine a certain result. It is a great development tool for farmers – getting them to really think about a problem, the many causes and effects, and use facts and data and a process of elimination to identify the true root cause of a problem. This helps to put in place effective actions that will get a better result next time.
Identifying the real root cause
The fishbone diagram breaks down the problem into some key set categories that then help the team explore potential causes in each category. The categories we used are Equipment, Process, People, Animals, Materials, Environment, and Management. Our team identified many various causes from type of semen used/ supplier (fresh or frozen), to equipment used for semen storage, our process of storage, to calving times, to breed of bulls used for natural mating, to time bulls were out, to cow movement. By doing such an open brainstorm you can identify every possible factor that could have contributed to our results.
The next step is to use a process of elimination. Getting facts and data on each of the potential causes helps you to then identify if something really was a cause or not and eliminate it if possible.
Eventually you are left with a few potential causes that you can explore further or implement actions for.
This problem solving approach is used by some of the best companies globally and is an extremely valuable tool to really identify root causes of problems. It is a fantastic team tool that will help to develop everyone’s capability and understanding and also drive better results for your farm.