Root Cause Analysis

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Finding the real cause of a problem. Explanation of Root Cause Analysis.

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What is Root Cause Analysis? Description

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a structured step by step technique that focuses on finding the real cause of a problem and dealing with that. Rather than merely dealing with its symptoms. Root Cause Analysis is a procedure for ascertaining and analyzing the causes of problems, to determine how these problems can be solved or be prevented from occurring. It is a process to help stakeholders to understand causes of a problem well enough to achieve permanent resolution of that problem.


Usage of Root Cause Analysis. Benefits

Most problematic situations which arise within organizations have multiple approaches to deal with them. These different approaches generally require different levels of resource expenditure to execute them. Because of the perceived immediacy which exists in most of these situations, there is a tendency to opt for the solution which is the most expedient in terms of quickly dealing with the situation.

In doing this, the tendency is generally to treat the symptoms rather than the underlying fundamental problem that is actually responsible for the situation occurring (root cause). Yet, through choosing this expeditious approach to deal with the symptoms, the problematic situation may likely occur again, and must be dealt with over and over again. The costs of these quick solutions can be high over time.


The goal of a Root Cause Analysis is to find out:

  • What happened.
  • Why it happened.
  • What can be done to prevent the problem from happening again.

A root cause is one of the most basic, or fundamental causes of the situation (condition) with which we are concerned. Since the situation (condition) is usually affected by many things (physical conditions, human behavior, behavior of systems, or processes), several root causes will usually be found. Compare: Cause and Effect Diagram


Steps in Root Cause Analysis. Process

The most common element of RCA method variants includes asking why today's situation (condition) occurred. While the answers are recorded. And then asking why for each answer, again and again. RCA attempts to identify contributing factors and all causes. This allows you to proceed further, by asking why, until the desired goal of finding the "root" causes is reached.

Finding root causes will lead us to the next step: to evaluate the best method to change the root cause, so we can improve our current condition. That is another process, commonly known as: corrective and preventive action. While we are searching for root cause, we must remember to review each found cause and factor for correction as well, since this can also provide for great improvements.


While the terminology RCA is generic, in the sense that there exist many different variants of the methodology, it does indicate that some kind of structural methodology will be used on the problem.


Limitations of Root Cause Analysis. Disadvantages

  • This method presupposes a single source of the problem. In reality, the situation may be more complex.

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Compare with Root Cause Analysis: Theory of Constraints  |  Cause and Effect Diagram  |  8D Problem Solving  |  Dialectical Inquiry  |  Mind Mapping  |  Pyramid Principle  |  Delphi Method  |  Analogical Strategic Reasoning  |  Action Learning  |  Brainstorming  |  Six Thinking Hats  |  Kepner-Tregoe Matrix  |  Crisis Management  |  Scenario Planning  |  Game Theory  |  Real Options  |  Plausibility Theory  |  RACI  |  Hoshin Kanri - Policy Deployment  |  Turnaround Management


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