Diagramming Techniques for Identifying Risks

Identifying risks is an essential part of Project Management. Diagramming these risks is a reliable and fast way to fully flesh out potential and actual risks. Let’s look at three diagramming techniques that are used in Project Management: Ishikawa Diagrams, Cause and Effect or Fishbone, Process Flow Charts (System Diagrams), Influence Diagrams.
Ishikawa Diagrams
The Ishikawa Diagram (also known as the fishbone diagram) is a cause-and-effect diagram that was created in Japan by Kaoru Ishikawa back in 1968. It is used primarily for quality defect prevention but it can also be very useful in Risk Identification. It is fundamentally broken down into layers, root causes, and effects that can contribute to a given outcome/risk/effect.
It is commonly used for quality control, but its use extends to risk identification because it relies on root cause analysis. It was specifically designed for the manufacturing industry and looks at the following factors to determine the cause: Machine Method, Material, Manpower, Measurement, & Environment. These are just categories that can be used to aid in brainstorming sessions. Each category will have subcategories.
Ishikawa Diagram Example
ASQ.org’s example shows how a manufacturing team used Ishikawa Diagrams to identify potential iron contamination sources. Notice that there are two causes, which is a result of a causality being influenced in multiple aspects of the company’s operation. This is the strength and power of the Ishikawa Diagram. It allows for a root cause from all possible sources.

Source: ASQ.org
Process Flow Diagram
The Process Flow Diagram (PFD), maps the flow of equipment and processes. The Process Flow Diagram (PFD) is used in process engineering and chemical to show the relationships between major equipment pieces. It can also be used to identify risks. The PFD is used primarily to establish relationships between major components of large processes, but it can also be used in granular settings because of its effectiveness in relationship establishment.
It is important to have someone who can actually do the operation diagram. This will ensure that the process is complete. Everyone involved in the process should be involved in diagramming. This is essential for brainstorming together and coming up with all the activities. Once you have arranged all activities from the beginning to the end of the process, verify for accuracy and then analyze. This is especially useful in identifying bottlenecks or stoppages in the process.
Process Flow Diagram Example
Below is an example of a PFD that can be used to illustrate an order being filled. This example has a decision tree. This is a great feature of the PFD to help you map out a solution.

Source: ASQ.org
Influence Diagrams
Influence Diagrams show a decision problem. The nodes represent the decision, the objective and general variables. They also show the influence of each variable on the other. The directional arrows that are drawn between nodes with A to B representations of influence, in which A influences and B is the case, represent Influence. Influence diagrams complement decision trees because they aren’t impacted by the exponential growth that can be problematic with decision trees. It allows team members to share insufficient information while still being capable of solving a problem.
The Influence Diagram can be used to identify risks that could have a direct impact on desired outcomes. The Influence Diagram identifies potential risk points by identifying nodes of general variables, environments, or other variables. The speed at which you can diagram