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?