The Purpose and Applications of Relations Diagrams
A relations diagram borders on being a tool for root cause identification, but is mainly used to identify logical relationships in a complex and confusing problem situation. In such cases, the strength of a relations diagram is its ability to visualize such relationships.
A relations diagram’s main purpose is to help identify relationships that are not easily recognizable.
In root cause analysis, this is particularly useful for:
- Understanding how different aspects of the problem are connected.
- Seeing relationships between the problem and its possible causes that can be further analyzed.
The Steps in Using Relations Diagrams
- Determine the factors to be analyzed for possible relationships and label these using brief and succinct definitions.
- Plot the factors on an empty chart on a whiteboard, preferably in a roughly circular shape.
- Assess what impacts each factor and which factors are impacted by it, and illustrate the relationships using arrows.
- After all relationships have been assessed, count the number of arrows pointing into and away from each factor and denote this information on the diagram.
- Depending on the number of arrows pointing in each direction for a factor, it can play one of two roles: driver (more arrows away from than into), or indicator (more arrows into than away from).
- When continuing the root cause analysis, the drivers form the starting point.
Example: Read about how a small hospital used a relations diagram to understand factors related to declining productivity of its doctors.
Excerpted from Root Cause Analysis: Simplified Tools and Techniques, by Bjørn Andersen and Tom Fagerhaug, pages 106–107.
Download the entire excerpt on relations diagrams (PDF, 3.54 MB).
Create your own relations diagram using these tools:
- Checklist (Doc, 140 KB)
- Relations Diagram Template