y chart

Brainstorming using a Y chart

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  • Ideation

Studies show that visuals improve learning and brain processing by a whopping 400%. That’s why we often use graphic organizers like flowcharts, mind maps, relationship maps, and graphs to organize information and describe complex ideas.

You can use many visual tools to brainstorm ideas, plan projects, track progress, and organize thoughts. One of these visual tools is known as a Y chart. These charts are often used in educational settings,  but you can also use them in business settings.

What is a Y chart?

A Y chart, or a Y diagram, is a graphic organizer often used by teams working in Six Sigma, Agile, or Lean environments to brainstorm ideas, make decisions, and solve problems. The chart is divided into three sections resembling “Y.” Each section should include a contributing factor or potential cause of the problem you are analyzing.

Why use a Y chart?

There are several reasons you should consider adopting Y charts into your workflow.

  1. Visuals help simplify complex information. Use a Y chart to break down a complicated issue for greater clarity and understanding.
  2. Y charts are easy to create. You can literally set one up in seconds.
  3. Y diagrams are highly customizable and applicable to essentially any use case.
  4. When team members contribute to problem-solving, they’re more likely to buy into any resulting changes.

How to create a Y chart

The process of creating a Y chart is relatively easy. Remember that Y charts are flexible, so you can adapt the format and look to meet your use case.

Y chart template
Y chart template (click on image to modify online)
  1. Draw a simple chart divided into three segments. It should resemble the letter “Y.”
  2. Identify the main problem or issue you want to address. Clearly define the problem and place it at the top of your canvas.
  3. Determine what your three main contributing factors will be. Limiting these factors to three helps keep the chart manageable and focused on the central problem.
  4. Label each chart segment with one of the contributing factors you’ve identified.
  5. Brainstorm to add associated possible causes under each contributing factor.
  6. Add detailed information to each possible cause, like potential solutions, ideas, or any other relevant information.
  7. Review and refine the information in your chart. Look for relationships or trends to find the best potential solutions.


Let’s say your company is experiencing low employee morale, and you’re tasked with finding the root cause. To use the chart, you would research to identify three factors that contribute to the problem and add them to the chart—for example, communication, work-life balance, and recognition. Then, you and your team should brainstorm ideas and details relating to each factor.

For example, if you were breaking down the work-life balance category into ideas and details, it may look like this:

  • Long work hours
    • Employees have more work than they can handle
      • Hire more resources
      • Distribute work assignments evenly
      • Provide adequate training
    • Employees are afraid to turn down new work assignments
      • Empower employees to voice concerns

Lucidspark can help

Lucidspark is a virtual whiteboard application that brings distributed teams together to collaborate in real time on shared projects. With an expansive library of shapes, images, and tools, creating a Y chart from scratch is easy—or use a free template to start. 

y chart

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