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Using a Dandelion Diagram in Your Root Cause Analysis

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 5/30/2013

Find out what a dandelion diagram is and how completing one can help you in your root cause analysis. It helps you look at your project from different angles to improve its quality. Ronda Bowen explains how and why to use a root cause analysis dandelion diagram in this article.

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    Just What Is It?

    A dandelion diagram is another chart that exists to help organize information found during a root cause analysis in a visual manner. Dandelions have different plant parts - roots, stems, flowers, and the parts you blow off to make a wish, and your diagram will follow that design. Using a dandelion diagram is great for complex root cause analyses. The dandelion diagram can help others understand the interrelationships between causes and effects.

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    When Is It Used? You would use a dandelion diagram in your root cause analysis when your root cause analysis turns up information that is more complex than can be covered in a fishbone diagram or a fault tree analysis. Dandelion diagrams are useful when there is a lot of information - both rooted out of sight and in plain sight that needs to be documented. Dandelion diagrams are also useful for very complicated problems that have multiple causes. For example, a root cause analysis of "poverty" would be best described using a dandelion diagram to show all the intricacies and interrelated nuances of causes.

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    How Is It Done?

    To create a dandelion diagram, first draw a horizontal line. Below the line are the roots - the hidden causes, the implicit assumptions, etc. will be depicted here. In your root cause analysis, you may find that implicit and explicit assumptions fuel the causes. Implicit assumptions are those that are not stated, but instead are assumed. For example the assumption of "laziness" may factor into the below the ground dandelion diagram of poverty. This is a barrier to escaping poverty. Explicit assumptions are those that have been stated - drug addiction for example. The assumptions go around the edges of the roots and stems, and specific causes are written on the roots or stems. Multi-faceted causes go on the flowers.

    You do not have to draw a dandelion to create a dandelion diagram, only think about the metaphor of the dandelion for your diagram. The dandelion diagram can be a great method for organizing all of the different intricacies of the problem and its causes.

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    Dramatic Diagram for Dramatic Quality Improvement Results

    You will find that the dandelion diagram is a complex and dramatic tool in your root cause analysis. Not all of your projects will require you to go into this much detail for determining root causes, but when you find that there is more to the problem or failure than you previously thought, you may find that performing such a detailed analysis of the root causes will produce dramatic results. By looking at the above the ground and below the ground factors that go into different problems, you can identify causes that may have previously gone overlooked and would have continued to drag your project success down in the future. If you find that you have done two or three root cause analyses or quality management projects and continue to have problems executing your projects effectively, that a more complex root cause analysis with the dandelion diagram is necessary.

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