Improvement tools: How-how diagrams

Page last updated: Tuesday, 11 July 2017 - 11:56am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

A How-how diagram helps to identify ways to achieve a goal or solve a problem. It shows a range of possible solutions all in one place.

The easiest way to understand How-how diagrams is to see some examples, and then follow the steps for how the diagrams were created. The How-How diagram in Figure 1 was developed to identify ways to achieve the goal of increasing operating profit in a manufacturing business. The diagram in Figure 2 was developed to identify ways to improve grain yield in an environment where water is limited.

On the left is the goal which is to improve operating profit. To the right are three options for achieving the goal. Further to the right are possible ways to achieve each of the first three options.
Figure 1 A How-How Diagram that identifies ways to increase operating profit.

On the left is the goal of improving grain yield in an environment where water is limited. On the right are four options for achieving the goal. Further to the right are options for achieving the first level options.
Figure 2 A How-How Diagram that identifies ways to improve grain yield in an environment where water is a limiting factor.

Drawing How-how diagrams

  1. In a box on the left write the goal. If you are working on a problem, turn it into a goal. For example, if the problem is low operating profit, the goal is to increae operating profit.
  2. Ask "How can the goal be achieved?"
  3. Write the answers to the question in boxes one under the other to the right of the goal.
  4. For each of these answers ask "How can this be achieved?"
  5. Write the answers for each of these question in boxes further to the right.
  6. Keep asking "How" questions until you have no more answers or until high priority improvement options become obvious.
  7. If there are several options available you may need to prioritise them.

Other tools to use with the How-how diagram

How-how diagrams can be used in step 2 of the CI&I - Continuous improvement and innovation process.

When you are defining the goal in the How-how diagram you can use the SMARTT goal tool.

The Impact and influence and Eight criteria tools can be used to work out the highest priority improvement options.

Once you have identified the highest priority options, you can use the Action design tool or Five Ws and one H to work out how to implement the improvements.

Support to use the tool

Please contact us if you would like help to use How-how diagrams.

A worksheet to help you use the tool can be found in the 'Documents' section on the far right.