Interrelationship Diagrams

You probably think you already understand your organization and your business. And, on many levels, you probably do. But, do you understand it well enough to make meaningful decisions and changes when necessary? Organizations are endlessly complicated, especially when they grow to be large businesses with many different divisions and numerous employees. It is hard to keep everything straight in your head, even if you have been with the organization since day one. So, in order to straighten things out mentally and provide yourself with a chance to solve problems in an effective manner, you may want to consider using interrelationship diagrams.

Interrelationship Diagrams

An interrelationship diagram, or ID, is a chart that can help you to visualize exactly how a number of issues relate to one another within your organization. When used properly, these diagrams are highly useful and they can help you make intelligent strategy decisions about the future of the company in question. Fortunately, interrelationship diagrams are easy to use, they are easy to learn, and they can be employed in a great number of situations.

Getting Started

To get started with an ID, the first thing you need to have is a problem to solve. Unfortunately, you probably won’t have to look too far to find a problem within your organization. Every organization has a long list of problems that they need to solve, as it is the nature of business to go through a regular cycle of problems and solutions. Even the best businesses have problems – in fact, it is really the ability to find good solutions that separates the top performing organizations from the rest.

So, to start your first ID chart, you will need to pick out a problem that needs to be solved. Once you have that problem in mind, it is going to be written down at the top of the page you are using for the diagram. From there, the next step is to identify a number of various issues that could be impacting that problem.

Getting Started with Interrelationship Diagrams

At this stage, you are simply brainstorming, so think of any issues within the organization that might be related to the problem in question, and write them down around the page. They don’t need to take any specific form at this point – they should just be logged clearly on the page so they can be dealt with later. Depending on the type of problem at hand, and the number of influences that relate to that problem throughout the business, you might find that you only need to write down a few potential issues – or you may need to fill up the entire page and then some. Whatever the case, be sure to do a thorough job of exploring potential causes of the problem before moving on.

Drawing the Interrelationship Diagram

Making Sense of the Mess

When you are done writing out all of the potential issues and causes that could be impacting this problem, the page you are left with will likely be a bit of a mess. That is okay – you are going to start sorting it out in this next step. At this point, your task is to determine exactly how all of the various notes on your page impact one another. For example, so some of the potential issues that you identified impact each other before you even get to the problem in question? Most likely, the answer is yes. The whole point of this interrelationship diagram exercise is to determine how things work together in the organization, and this portion of the process is the most important step of all.

At the heart of the process, it is really all about cause and effect. You need to work through the process of determining which issues on your sheet are causes, and which are effects. It is very likely that many of the points you have written down will fall into both categories, depending on their place in the timeline of events. You are going to draw arrows from one issue to another in order to indicate relationships and cause and effect flow. As the diagram begins to come together, you will notice a flow begin to develop on the chart, and you will soon begin to gain a picture of how you end up with the problem that was at the root of the whole diagram.

Look for Troublemakers

Are there any points on your sheet that seem to have a great number of ‘out’ arrows while having very few, if any, arrows pointing inward? If so, those issues just might be at the heart of your problems.

Trouble Spots on an ID

It is common to have just one or points leading to a variety of troubles pots in an organization, which means you may be able to take great steps forward if you are only able to correct those basic issues. Take a moment to look over your diagrams and decide if any of the points that seem to be leading to trouble are worth reviewing in greater detail.

In the end, your ultimate goal is obviously to solve the problem that you started with at the top of the page. To do so, you need to read the diagram carefully and choose exactly how you are going to proceed in order to come to a successful conclusion. Which points should you address first? Which do you think are most likely to solve the problem in the least amount of time, or with the greatest effect? Use your critical thinking skills, along with the perspective that you have gained from creating the diagram, and you should be a big step closer to a satisfactory outcome.

Interrelationship diagrams are only one way to solve problems within an organization, but they have been proven to be effective time and time again in real world applications. Once you get the hang of using this tool in the workplace, it just may become your preferred option for solving problems and keeping your organization as a whole on track.

You can read more about Interrelationship Diagrams in our free eBook ‘Problem Solving for Managers’. Download it now for your PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, Kindle, eBook reader or Smartphone.

Key Points

  • Interrelationship diagrams (ID) show how different issues are related to one another and help identify which issues are causing problems and which are a result of other issues.
  • A diagram consists of a set of circles representing each issue to be considered organized in a radial pattern on the page.
  • Connecting lines between the boxes indicate relationship with arrows showing the direction of the relationship.
  • There are 5 steps involved in an interrelationship diagram analysis: Identify the problem, identify the issues, connect the issues, analyse the relationships, solve the problem.
  • Although they do not identify detailed reasons for the problem, interrelationship diagrams allow causes and effects to be clearly seen.

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