When to use it
Use it when you are defining a problem to decide what is in scope and what is not going to be considered at this time.
Use it also when you are part of the way through a problem and you are not sure what you are trying to do and what is not so important.
You can also use it when planning a solution, to help decide what to include and what to exclude.
How to use it
Build the basic diagram
Draw the basic table as below. If you are working with a group, do it on a flipchart page or a whiteboard.
Add a description of the overall situation at the top of the page. Use a separate sheet if you need more than a few words.
Add ‘is’ and ‘is not’ elements
Now simply as ‘What is included here?’ and ‘What is not included here?’, writing these down in either column as appropriate. Where it is a close division, you can add examples to clarify what falls either side of the line.
The bottom line for deciding where to place any point is to ask yourself questions such as:
- Who cares about this?
- What will happen if we do nothing about it?
- Do we have the authority to work on this?
- What do I know about this already?
- Do we care about this?
- Will we actually do something about this?
Do be careful when asking these questions, as you may ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ if you make incorrect assumptions about such as what authority you have and what you can actually solve.
How it works
Is-Is not analysis works by making you deliberately think about the problem and in particular the boundaries of what it is or is not. It thus helps to create focus in attention and consequently is more likely to lead to the right problem being solved – it is a very common issue that an unclear boundary can lead to wandering off the path and solving unimportant problems.