Public Housing Process Improvement: How A Cause and Effect Diagram Can Help Your Agency.

Is there an issue at your housing authority?  Have you tried solving it but cannot quite figure out what the main cause is?  Even worse, do you jump to the conclusion without really thinking about what the main reason is.  Here is a tool that might help you make some progress.  Sometimes it is called an Ishikawa Diagram other times a Fish bone Diagram.  It does not really matter what you call it, this tool helps you discover the root causes of whatever problem you may be experiencing within your housing authority.This is a method many people use to either brainstorm or break issues out into categories that make it easier to understand.

When Cause and Effect Diagram is Helpful

  • If you need help figuring out an issue
  • Dead-ends

Cause and Effect Diagram Process

Pretty simple to do this one.  Just grab a marker, some paper or a whiteboard.

    1. The group needs to come up with a problem statement(effect). Write it at the center right of the flip chart or whiteboard. Draw a box around it and draw a horizontal arrow running to it.
    2. Try to come up with the major issues/categories for the problem.  To be honest I go with the generic headings to start and then make changes as necessary.
      • Methods
      • Machines (equipment)
      • People (manpower)
      • Materials
      • Measurement
      • Environment
    3. Write the categories of causes as branches from the main arrow.
    4. Brainstorm all the possible causes of the problem and think about why it is happening. Do not limit yourself.  Causes can go into several different categories.

Fishbone Diagram Example For Interim Review

It is always easier if you can see an example.  I have used this tool in public housing for anything from annual reviews to interim reviews to inventory and development problems.  Take a look at this interim review example.


You can see here that there are several reasons for the interim process taking too long and being burdensome for staff.  In this case, the process and people areas had the most problems.  That meant we needed to have a more defined standard process and then we needed to train both staff and tenants on that process.  This helped us get the issues on the table and then we were able to rank them and create counter-measures and plans to attack the issues.


This is a pretty basic tool but it puts a little more structure to brainstorming ideas.   I have found it effective on several occasions.  Anyone else use this tool or something similar when looking at problems?


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