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Cornerstone root causes through the analysis of the Ishikawa diagram, is it possible to find them? A first research approach

Manuel F. Suárez-Barraza (Universidad de las Americas Puebla, Puebla, Mexico)
Francisco G. Rodríguez-González (EGADE Business School, Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico City, Mexico)

International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences

ISSN: 1756-669X

Article publication date: 7 December 2018

Issue publication date: 11 June 2019




Some manufacturing and service organizations have made efforts to work on continuous improvement in the form of Kaizen, lean thinking, Six Sigma, etc. The elimination of problems and waste (MUDA for the Japanese) plays a fundamental role in the reduction of operational costs and quality rejections of finished products both internally in the organization and in the supply chain. Some of these efforts use quality control tools to remedy it. Kaoru Ishikawa proposes seven basic quality tools. In this group of quality tools is the cause-and-effect diagram (CED), also known as “The Fishbone” and “Ishikawa diagram”. Exploring this questioning can shed light on the first indications to ratify the arguments of Ishikawa and Deming, that the main problems of companies are found in their processes and perhaps, in a deep way, in some of these cornerstone root causes that have to do with the way organizations are managed. The purpose of this study is to investigate cornerstone root causes through the application of CEDs in 40 Mexican companies that began an effort to improve some of their organizational processes.


An exploratory qualitative study was conducted. As a research strategy, the case study method was applied. Using theoretical sampling, the Ishikawa diagrams of 40 companies were analyzed, and 24 semi-structured interviews in depth were conducted.


The results of this research confirm the main research question: Are there cornerstone root causes that give way to one or several problems or effects of problems in organizations regardless of their sector? In other words, there were at least seven typical patterns that show the first signs of cornerstones root causes in organizations.

Research limitations/implications

The method itself is a limitation; 40 case studies are not enough to generalize the results. In addition, the research was conducted only in a single Latin American country; in some cities of Mexico. However, 60 per cent of these companies are multinationals.

Practical implications

This paper is fundamental to delve into the cornerstones causes that give rise to the problems of organizations of the twenty-first century. The authors understand that these are the first indications, and that they cannot be considered a conclusion of these causes. However, this first theoretical sampling presents a first light on the subject.


The study contributes to the limited existing literature on total quality management and Kaizen in quality control tools and subsequently disseminates this information to provide impetus, guidance and support toward improving the problems of the organizations of twenty-first century.



Suárez-Barraza, M.F. and Rodríguez-González, F.G. (2019), "Cornerstone root causes through the analysis of the Ishikawa diagram, is it possible to find them? A first research approach", International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 302-316.



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