5M Fishbone Diagram

5 M Problem Solving


5 M Question

I have a question about the 5M technique for solving problems. I want to start using the fishbone diagram for problem solving and knowing what the 5Ms are will be helpful. The question specifically is, what are the 5 Ms? Our Quality Assurance Director states that they are man, machine, material, environment, and method. I was taught in my previous job that rather than environment it is money. When I search the internet I see that I am not the only one with a different understanding.

I have asked this same question to other professionals and even a few professors but no one has replied! So, what are the 5 Ms?

Anonymous Submission March, 2006: Posted with consent

The 5Ms

Thanks for the question. I'm sorry to hear that you haven't had any replies to your question. After all, information is free and sharing it should be a privilege. Both you and your QA Director are close and yes, the environment is also investigated. I can say, though, that money is not a part of the 5Ms. Money may be required for a solution but it is not one of the 5 Ms. They are as follows:

  • Man
  • Machine
  • Material
  • Method
  • Measurement

It is important to note that the environment may affect the material, man, machine, and even the measurement. Therefore, the environment is examined. However, the 5Ms are as listed above and neither money nor environment are among them.

Figure 1 shows an example of how to set up the fishbone diagram


fishbone diagram

While using this this brainstorming tool it is important to never criticize input of others. As far-fetched or unlikely as ideas may seem, be sure to list them and thank anyone that contributes. First of all this encourages everyone to provide input. Additionally, on occasion, even the craziest ideas prove to be the actual root cause.

Figure 2 shows a sample of how to build upon the fishbone diagram.


Sample Fishbone

Of course, this is a simple example. The actual fishbone diagram will most likely continue to branch out further. Once the fishbone is complete one should assign a person to each and every idea generated and listed in the diagram. That person should investigate the idea thoroughly and provide hard data. Again, we are looking to eliminate assumptions and clearly identify the root cause.

Keep in mind that this tool is but one of many. We also highly recommend a 5 Why analysis which is very effective in identifying root causes.

I hope this is helpful. If you require further assistance please contact us.


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