Interrelationship Digraph

A convergent tool for dialogue that helps us determine which root causes are most important to address.

Please feel free to use/adapt/share as you see fit! All we ask is that you keep the attribution statements on the protocols so that people know where they came from, and can reach out for more information.

Improvement Tool: Interrelationship Digraph

A convergent tool for dialogue that helps us determine which root causes are most important to address.

Avoid Solutionitis… the goal is to understand the issue, not solve it (yet)
“Yes and”… the goal is to generate lots of ideas, and not fixate on one
Embrace “definitely incomplete; likely incorrect”
Share the air

Facilitator who monitors times, walks people through the process, and helps uphold the norms.


Step 1: Write the problem statement at the top of the poster.
Impact Group Problem Statements:
Not all students experience quality internships.
Not all students are engaged in quality presentations of learning.
Too many students are chronically absent.
Not enough students transition successfully to college.

Step 2: Identify 6-8 of the most significant causes contributing to this problem.
(Note: If you previously created a fishbone diagram, the categories from your fishbone can serve as the causes. In this case, skip to step 3.)

Initial Brainstorm of Causes (2 min.)
Based on your work digging into the problem (i.e. empathy interviews, expert convenings, relevant data, research, etc.) and your own ideas/experiences, individually brainstorm 3-4 of the most significant causes contributing to the problem (i.e. access, skills, parent knowledge, etc.) on individual post-its.

Quick Share & Categorize (10 min)
The goal here is to quickly identify 6 – 8 causes contributing to the problem.
Share around & Cluster: Each person shares one cause contributing to the problem. If others have a similar cause, you can start to group those post-its together. Continue to share until everyone’s ideas are out.
Select: Identify the 6-8 most significant causes contributing to the problem and write them in a circle around the outer edge of the poster, like the numbers on a clock face.

Step 3: Each person makes a prediction. (2 min.) Which cause do you think is most important? (You
can either share these now, or ask people to write their prediction on a post-it and share them later.)

Step 4: Construct the Digraph.
Starting with one cause, for each pair of causes ask yourself:
Is there a relationship between these two? If yes, which causes the other, the most? Draw an arrow from one to the other to show directionality.  For example, the facilitator may ask the group “Does social anxiety about school cause a lack of motivation or visa versa?” If the group thinks social anxiety causes lack of motivation (more than lack of motivation causing social anxiety), draw the arrow going toward motivation (from cause to effect). You can decide there is not a causal relationship, but you must pick a direction if you do see a relationship.

Repeat until you have established a relationship (or not) between all the topics.

Tally (out, in) for each cause. The root causes with the most outgoing lines most impact the issue/problem. Star the top 1-2 root causes! The root causes with the most ingoing lines tend to be the effects/symptoms of the causes

Step 5: Discuss Predictions & Implications
Were our predictions correct? What root cause(s) have we learned are most at the heart of the problem?  What have we tried to address the root causes – and what are the successes and challenges we’ve experienced? What will we do next?