Root Cause Analysis (RCA) Resource Center

Root Cause Analysis with Corrective Action Overview

Root cause analysis involves searching backwards from an undesirable effect (or problem) to its cause(s) and addressing those causes.

  • The term “Root Cause” implies that there is a single cause for a problem.
  • Actually many problems have multiple causes that interact or work together to trigger the event.

The root cause analysis task is to:

  • Identify potential causes.
  • Determine which cause or causes are root causes.
  • Address those root causes to ensure the effect (the problem) does not recur.

Why is root cause analysis so important?

  • If a problem has occurred once, it most likely will occur again (unless something is done to prevent its recurrence.)
  • However, if the root cause is found (and it is addressed,) future occurrences of the same problem CAN BE PREVENTED!
  • Root cause analysis is the key to preventing future problems.

Can all problems be prevented?

  • Probably not – BUT – most recurring problems can be prevented if the root cause is found and addressed.

Four keys to successful root cause analysis:

  • Use a step-wise approach:
    • Standardize the approach throughout the organization.
  • Adopt fact-based decision making:
    • Don’t accept opinions, guesses or hunches.
  • Test to confirm:
    • If the root cause has been “found,” test to confirm you have indeed identified the root cause or causes.
  • Implement permanent corrective solutions
    • Does the solution answer the “root cause question?”  (The root cause question: Does this cause explain all that we know about what the problem is, as well as all we know about what the problem is not?)
    • Is the solution practical, feasible and cost-effective?
    • Is the solution robust and sustainable?