Root Cause Analysis

Root Cause Analysis is a procedural approach that aims to identify the factors that had an impact on the nature, extent, place, and timing of a harmful result to one or more past events with an objective of identifying the factors that will prevent the harmful outcomes to arise again. Root Cause Analysis (RCA) also aims to document the data for such negative results as reference for recommendation to achieve better results on a similar problem. The main objective of this approach is to identify the ‘root-cause’ of the problem to prevent it from future recurrence.

The idea of addressing the problem through its root cause was introduced in order to identify the deeper cause and not concentrate on the immediate problems that arise. By this approach, it will eliminate totally the possibility of similar situations to arise in the future.

A leader in an organization should take all problems as an opportunity to learn since all problems can tell stories on the reason why it occurred as a result, the leader can involve the key people in improving the quality of their products or services after identifying the root cause of failure.

Leaders of a group or a corporate organization needs to understand that RCA digs deeply on the problem, oftentimes a problem with quality is masked with variety of reasons of the real cause. In this regard, he needs to be both focused and open minded but patient and quick in resolving the problem. Above all, the leader needs to be relentless in looking deeply and thinking out of the box solutions.

A problem unsolved costs every corporate organization a corresponding amount of losses as the impact goes bigger and bigger, see illustration below:

Root Cause Analysis

Root Cause Analysis

A poor judgment on the root cause of the problem welcomes its recurring existence. Thus a cost spent on solving similar problems shall be a similar cost on the same problem in the future.  In this regard, the leader needs to have an extensive idea on how problems should be identified. A problem solver can start by considering the symptoms and root cause difference.

For example, an error of frequent errors committed by employees is a symptom. A leader who looks at it as the main cause of the problem will direct the blame to the concerned employee while on the other hand Leader B will investigate further and may find out that the errors are result of system defects. His employee is a mere user of the system. To address the problem, leader A will conduct more trainings and motivational approaches to keep his employee well-oriented with the system.

Meanwhile, Leader B will further investigate the situation by conducting mistake proof test to validate the root cause of the problem to keep it from happening again. Finally, Leader A will stop looking over the root cause of the problem since he might end up using financial resources which he may deemed unnecessary since he has trained and motivated his employees already, though he may not see the bigger problem may arise in the future.

Leader B o the other hand shall proposed to fix the problem regardless of cost since having to face the similar the same situation in the future may cost them greater amount.

To further understand RCA, one should keep in mind the General Principles of Root Cause Analysis.

  1. RCA prime objective is to identify all the factors that contribute to the problems. One needs to investigate the underlying reasons that causes and aggravates the problems. A leader need to look at every detail considering minor and major causes and should be able to identify which is the prime cause from the contributing cause and set lists of activities on how these causes can be solved permanently.
  2. An effective conduct of RCA needs a systematic approach to the problem. Every concern parties needs to be involved in identifying the cause, proposal of solutions, ad documenting evidences that cause the problem. Usually, a team effort is required since details of the problem will come from employees and solutions may come from engineers, designers, and the top Management.
  3. Everyone in the organization that’s concern in solving and identifying a problem need to know that there could be more than just one cause to a problem, In fact, it is of a prime difficulty to sustain an approach  with an effort of developing a systematic identification of causes and underlying causes.
  4. In implementing the objective of preventing the cause from its recurrence, problem solver need to keep the solutions in a cost effective approach, the less cost approach will always prevail over other alternatives. However, cost effectiveness approach should be in consonance with long term goal of keeping the problem from arising in the future. A less cost solution may have a 10% probability of recurring, then a slightly expensive solution will be more practical if it offers zero probability of coming back.
  5. An effective RCA is entirely dependent on how RCA is defined; problem statements should be clear and event descriptions needs to be discussed in detailed.
  6. In analyzing the cause of the problem, it should be able to establish a sequence of events and the timeline of occurrence. This will be helpful in in understanding the contributory factors of the problem, the root causes, and the probability of its recurrence in the future.

While there are principles that guides in RCA, there are also general process on how RCA should be conducted:

  1. Define the problem – the facts should be properly describe and must include the qualitative and quantitative properties of the harmful effects.
  2. Collect Data and Evidence – the problem solver needs to document data and evidences like the normal condition prior to the problem, the output difference when the problem arise, the result of inaction and the timeline prior to addressing the problem and the inclusion of costs in solving the problem.
  3. Identify the factors that result to the harmful effects.
  4. Categorize causes into casual factors that contribute to the overall effects that interrupted the normal operation.
  5. Identify all corrective actions that will best help in keeping the recurrence of harmful effects. Also the leader needs to identify the results upon implementations of these corrective actions.
  6. Implement the best corrective actions.
  7. Constantly monitor the result of the corrective action.

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