How-How Diagram

How-How Diagram

Once you have identified a problem, you need to find a solution that will permanently solve the problem. Sometimes you have to get to the root causes of the problem to understand why it’s happening. Other times, you don’t even need to dig into the problem. You just need to solve the it right away. This is what is called low-hanging fruit.

These low-hanging fruit may be quick wins or larger projects that may involve capital expenditure. For example, after reviewing a process, you may have identified non-value-added activities that need to be eliminated. Other examples include modifying a procedure, changing workplace layout, mistake proofing a process, and improving a management report.

Whether you have low-hanging fruit or fruit that is on the top of the tree, you need to come up with actionable items in order to solve the problem permanently. This can be easily done by performing the how-how analysis (a very similar technique to the value driver analysis).

The how-how diagram is a simple method that is used to generate multiple ideas to solve a specific problem. It provides an effective structure for organizing possible ideas and solution options all in one place. It works by repeatedly asking ‘How can this be solved?‘ until you can no longer break the answers any further. Multiple answers can be given for a single question, and therefore the result can be represented in a hierarchical tree format.

How-How Structure

Drawing the Diagram

  1. With your team, clearly state the problem then write it on a post-it card. Place the problem card on the left side of a whiteboard or wall.
  2. Ask ‘how can this problem be solved?’. Let the team members write as many answers as possible on post-it cards, each idea separately, then stick them up to the right of your problem.
  3. Repeat this sequence of breaking down the problem once more. Keep asking ‘How’ until the ideas are specific enough and you are satisfied with them.
  4. Once you are finished, prioritize and determine the key ideas to be implemented.
How-How variations
The diagram can either be drawn from left to right or from the center going outwards


As an example, let’s say that we want to identify ways to reduce the amount of energy used in a production plant.

How-How Diagram Example


Another example is when a team wants to identify ways to achieve the goal of reducing spoilage in a manufacturing business.

How-How Diagram Example

Note that you might use the ‘OR’ symbol to indicate alternative ideas. You can also add thick borders around the ideas that has been chosen to be part of the final solution.

Other Formats

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