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What is root cause analysis? This is a question many people ask. If you’re one of them then here’s some useful info for you. A factor causing nonconformance, root cause needs to be permanently eliminated via process improvement. A collective term describing an extensive range of tools, approaches and techniques, root cause analysis is used to find out the causes of problems. Generally, the following tools are used to perform root cause analysis for a situation or problem.

Fishbone diagram: A tool that divides ideas into useful categories, fishbone diagram is used to identify the different potential causes of a problem or an effect.

Pareto chart: A bar graph, Pareto chart depicts factors according to their significance

Scatter diagram: To help you find the relationship, a scatter diagram charts numerical data pairs with a variable on each axis.

Now that you have a basic ideal what root analysis refers to, it’s time to take a more detailed look at root cause analysis.

Understanding root cause analysis

The root of the problem, the root cause is what causes the cause-and-effect chain of the problem (s). Compared to other approaches, some rootcause analysis approaches are better geared towards the identification of the real problem or root cause. Additionally, some approaches are used as general problem-solving techniques. Lastly, some techniques are used simply to offer support to root cause analysis’ root activity. You will be able to apply the right tool or technique to resolve a specific problem if you acquaint yourself with the root cause analysis toolbox. Let’s now discuss the root cause analysis approaches and techniques.

The approaches and techniques of root cause analysis

A good way to find out about the approaches and techniques of root cause analysis is looking at a root cause analysis template. Nonetheless, to save you time, we’re going to discuss the approaches, techniques and methodologies used to perform root cause analysis. Today, a number of approaches, techniques and methodologies are used to perform root cause analysis. However, following are the five root cause analysis techniques/ approaches suggested by the Department of Energy (DOE):

Events and causal factor analysis

A process that makes use of evidence gathered methodically and quickly, events and causal factor analysis is widely used for major events that occur alone such as a refinery explosion.  In this root cause analysis, the gathered evidence is used to set a timeline for the activities that lead to the accident. You will be able identify the casual and contributing factors after the timeline has been set.

Change analysis

When the performance of a system has changed significantly, change analysis is the root cause approach used for the situation. Change analysis looks to identify the shift in information, equipment, people and other things that may have caused the shift in performance.

Barrier analysis

To either detect or prevent a problem, barrier analysis a root cause analysis technique used to determine what controls are in place.

Management oversight and risk tree analysis

To see what occurred and determine why it occurred, management oversight and risk tree analysis is the root cause analysis approach used. This approach involves the use of a tree diagram. You will be able better understand the management oversight and risk tree analysis by taking a look at root cause analysis template or root cause analysis examples.

Kepner-Tregoe Problem Solving and Decision Making

This root cause analysis approach involves the use of four different analysis techniques. The Following four techniques are used by the Kepner-Tregoe Problem Solving and Decision Making approach:

  • Problem analysis
  • Situation analysis
  • Potential problem analysis
  • Solution analysis

There you have it—the five approaches and techniques of root cause analysis. At times, the approaches and techniques mentioned above may overlap so you may need to take a look root cause analysis examples to find out which approach is right for you. Now that we’ve discussed the techniques and approaches of root cause analysis, it’s time to look at the root cause analysis processes and methods.

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Root cause analysis methods and processes

What is root cause analysis and what are the methods and processes involved in it? This is something many people want to know. For all such people, following is some very useful information. A complex world is what we live in. Often, the time to perform the in-depth analysis required to address problems is something people and organizations don’t have. Due to this, they take the easy way out and use ways that hide the problem rather than using ways to resolve it. However, the same people and organizations get frustrated when the problem returns. Rather than applying patch work to your problem, you should identify its root cause at fix the problem at the root. Today, using an analytical process, you can easily find the actual cause(s) of a problem. The analytical process involves the use of tools, diagrams and figures that make the problem visible.

Contrary to the popular belief, root cause analysis doesn’t look to investigate major incidents/ accidents instead it focuses on solving repetitive problems. The majority of the root cause analysis examples will exhibit situations that you’re likely to be familiar with. The main purpose of root cause analysis is finding the origin of the problem and why it occurred.  In short, root cause analysis is a great problem solving approach. Keep the following things in mind when carrying out the methods and processes of root cause analysis:

  • A single person can use the majority of the root cause analysis tools. Having said that, when a group of people work together to perform root cause analysis, the outcome is generally better.
  • Only prominent members of the analysis team recruited to find the cause of the problem should remove the identified root cause (s).

Following are the steps a typical root case analysis design in an organization might follow:

  • In order to perform root cause analysis, a small team is formed
  • The business area/process of the organization experiencing the problem is where team members are selected from. Following is whom the team might be complemented by:

In case the team members have little experience of this work, help is taken from a quality improvement expert:

An internal customer from the process with problems

A line manager with authority to make decisions and implement solutions

  • Two months is what the analysis lasts for. The two month period is evenly used for defining and understanding the problem, analyzing causes and effects, brainstorming the possible causes of the problem and finding a solution to the problem.
  • During the two month period, the team meets on regular basis. To be specific, the team meets at least once every month and at times two to three meetings take place in a week. The meetings are always brief. Generally, the time period of the meetings is two hours. Also, as the team is open to ideas, the meeting has no set agenda.
  • The responsibility of ensuring the analysis progresses is given to a particular member of the team and different tasks are assigned to the other members of the team.
  • After the solution has been designed and the decision to implement it has been taken, depending on what the implementation process involves, the change can take anywhere from a day to several months to complete.

The aforementioned steps are the steps that make up the root cause analysis methods and processes. However, to get a better idea of root cause analysis, take a look at root cause analysis examples or a root cause template. Let’s now take a look at how root cause analysis originated.

Root Cause Analysis Examples

The broader field of total quality management (TQM) is where the history of root cause analysis can be traced to. Almost simultaneously, total quality management has developed in different directions. The development of several problem solving, analysis and improvement tools is one of these directions. A toolbox of such techniques is what TQM possesses today. An integral part of this toolbox is root cause analysis.

What is root cause analysis and what role does TQM play in its development? If you’re asking this question the here you go. A part of a more general problem solving process, root cause analysis is a fundamental part of continuous improvement. In fact, in the continuous improvement efforts of an organization, root cause analysis is a core building block. It is important for you to keep in mind that no results will be produced by root cause analysis. Instead, you need to make root cause analysis part of larger problem solving effort for it to have any effect. You must make root causes analysis part of your efforts to improve every aspect and process of your organization if you want it to have any standing.

The basics of root cause analysis

What is root cause analysis? In the simplest terms, root cause analysis is an approach used to identify the causes of an incident/accident in order to find and implement the most effective solution. Generally, root cause analysis is used when something goes haywire. However, it can also be used during times when everything’s going well. You can take a look at root cause analysis examples to understand when root cause analysis is used. There are three basic questions that link root cause analysis, incident investigation and problem solving in an organization. Following are those three questions:

  • What is the problem?
  • Why did it occur?
  • What measures will be taken to prevent it from occurring in the future?

There are two things that root cause analysis looks to identify. The two things that root cause analysis looks to identify include the symptom of the problem and the underlying causes. You can better understand this by looking at a root cause analysis template. Nonetheless, the symptom of the problem refers to the weed above the surface or the cause(s) that are obvious. On the other hand, the underlying causes are the root below the surface or the causes that are hidden.

Digging beneath the surface of a problem is what root cause analysis is all about. Though, rather than looking for a single ‘root cause’, you should use root cause analysis to reveal a system of causes. The causes underneath the surface are what the word ‘root’ in root cause analysis refers to. It is unfortunate that the majority of the organization use root cause analysis to identify a single cause. It is important for you to keep in mind that the solution set gets limited if you focus on a single cause. This in turn causes you to miss out on viable solutions. A simple explanation of all the causes of the incident is what root cause analysis provides. By revealing all the causes, the root allows you to find different solutions to the problem. In short, the root allows you to use multiple ways to minimize risk and prevent problems. To use root cause analysis effectively for your organization, keep the following steps in mind:

  • The issue needs to be defined based on its impact on the overall goals. How to define the problem is something people tend to disagree over. If you define the problem based on its impact on the goals, you will be able to win agreement from the majority
  • Make a visual map of the problem. Using the visual map, you’ll be able to reveal all the causes of the problem.
  • Finally, select the best solutions to prevent or minimize any negative impact on the goals.

There you have it—everything that you need to know about root cause analysis. To get a better idea of root cause analysis, you can take a look at root cause analysis examples or a root cause template.


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