Root Cause Analysis (RCA) identifies the root cause of problems and helps you identify and implement solutions. Instead of dealing with the surface symptoms of a problem, RCA digs deeper and discovers the underlying problem. By taking the time to analyze why a problem really happened, you can fix it for good, rather than looking for a quick fix. In this article, you'll learn how RCA can be the key to corrective action.
"Let's get to the root of the problem" is an idiom people often use when looking for a solution. This language can be visualized in the form of tree roots beneath the surface. The roots of the trees are not visible, but their growth above the ground is evident. Sometimes this growth is positive, resulting in a beautiful tree, and other times it is negative, damaging sidewalks and foundations.
You may not initially understand why certain problems occur, which is why understanding the root cause is so important. RCA can help you understand the situation at hand and find effective solutions. In this article, we discuss how to perform root cause analysis and provideproblem solving strategiesfor process improvement.
What is Root Cause Analysis?
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) involves finding the root cause of a problem so that a solution can be identified and implemented. RCA deals with the root cause of a problem, not the symptoms of the problem itself.
For example, if your company has low retention rates, hiring more team members is a quick fix. But with RCA, you can findbecauseTeam members don't stay with the company, thus improving retention in the long run. Root causes of low retention rates may include:
Lack of career development opportunities.
Poor benefits for team members
Low wages compared to market range
low team morale
After considering possible root causes, you can investigate to determine one or more root causes. Once these root causes are understood, it is easy to implement solutions. RCA addresses problems systematically, rather than putting a Band-Aid on them and risking them happening again.
RCA main principles
Root cause analysis can resolve recurring or significant project issuesbottleneckin the business process. If you want to take advantage of the unique benefits of this approach, keep these key RCA principles in mind:
Instead of correcting the symptoms of a problem, focus on its root cause.
Focus less on the root of the problem and more on how and why it happened.
Find causal evidence to support the root cause you have identified.
develop an informativeaction planSupport your solution.
Consider how to prevent the root cause from recurring in the future.
Keep in mind that it's not uncommon for a problem to have more than one root cause. Find out what you think are the most accurate root causes and prepare to address them with solid solutions.
How to Do a Root Cause Analysis
You can use several strategies to determine the root cause of RCA. Use the steps below to guide your team through the RCA process.
1. Define the problem
You will need a well-defined problem to perform root cause analysis. If you have multiple problems you want to solve, it is best to start with one and then perform multiple RCAs to find a solution for each problem. By tackling problems one at a time, you'll have a better chance of finding the cause of each problem and fixing it quickly.
Defining your problem also means getting everyone on the same page. For example, you might want to perform RCA because you think your team is unproductive. But if your team doesn't see you as unproductive, then you can't move forward. Since productivity is subjective, you may need to define your problem in a more measurable way before moving on to step two where you use evidence to learn more about the problem.
2. Collection of your data
You now need to gather evidence to support the existence of the problem. You can also use company research to better understand the symptoms of the problem. Questions to ask during this step include:
How long has the problem existed?
Who is suffering from this problem?
What are the short- and long-term implications of this problem?
What are the main symptoms of this problem?
What evidence do we have that there is a problem?
Once you learn more about how this issue affects your company and team members, you canAffectionatePossible cause of the problem.
3. Identify the underlying root cause
Identifying potential root causes is the most important part of the root cause analysis process. The reasons you find in this step will eventually lead you to a solution and a plan of action. Common problem-solving strategies include:
Cause and effect flow chart:The free root cause analysis template provided below demonstrates a cause and effect flowchart. The flowchart breaks down the problem into symptoms, possible causes, and actual causes to find a logical solution.
5 whys method:You can also use the 5 Whys method to find the root cause of a problem. Instead of taking the problem at face value, ask yourself "why" until you discover that a process or system is not working as expected. When you're not satisfied with the first answer you get, you may discover layers of problems that you didn't notice right away.
Read: How to use problem framing to fix team inefficiencies
4. Determine the root cause
To determine the root cause of a problem, it looks at as many possible root causes as possible. After exhausting all possibilities, ask the following questions:
Are there similarities between the root causes I identified?
Is there a reason to eliminate these underlying root causes?
Which root cause seems to be the most problematic?
Similar to the strategies you use when looking for potential root causes, there are a few strategies you can use to find the actual root cause. These strategies include:
Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA):FMEA is a kind ofRisk AnalysisHere you will review the identified potential root causes and eliminate the ones most likely to cause future failures.
Impact Analysis:use oneImpact AnalysisEvaluate the positive and negative effects of each potential root cause you identify. When you make this list of hypothetical pros and cons for each cause, you may feel more confident narrowing down your list.
You might have a hard time pinpointing a single root cause of your problem, but that's okay. If you think there are multiple contributing factors to your problem, don't feel pressured to pick just one to solve. It's good to keep your action plan simple, but sometimes you need more than one plan to solve a problem.
5. Implement the solution
Once the identified root causes have been identified, it's time to find and take action on ways to address them. The solutions you find should address the root cause, but as it turns out, these solutions will work their way up the chain and fix your original problem.
Ask yourself these questions as you develop your solution:
How would we implement this solution if we chose it?
What obstacles do we face in implementing this solution?
How long will it take to implement the solution?
Who will implement this solution?
Will implementing this solution cause other problems?
Once you're ready to create yourImplementation Plan, making sure it's shared across tools where all stakeholders can see it.project management softwareMake it easy for your team to collaborate and coordinate deliverables as needed. Implementing your plan can take weeks, which means some of your goals may depend on other milestones. wearGantt chartview projectdependenciesAnd collaborate in real time.Read: What are the benefits of project management?
Root Cause Analysis Examples and Templates
RCA templates simplify root cause analysis because you can visualize problems and their root causes in the form of a flowchart. Like the root of a tree, this causal flow diagram unfolds in different directions from the original problem.
If you follow the root cause analysis example below, you'll see how the template starts with a problem and then breaks down into the symptoms the problem exhibits. Based on symptoms, the root cause analysis template helps you identify possible root causes before identifying actual root causes and finding solutions.
In this example, the company suffered a loss of website traffic. The root cause analysis process is as follows:
Website Views Decline
Decreased brand awareness.
Lack of online shopping.
low domain authority
Possible root cause:
Technical issues with our website
Highest Ranked Competitors on SERPs
weak call to action
Customers don't like our products.
Customers can't find our website to make a purchase
poor quality content
The real root cause:
Lack of SEO content
The site is not ranking in the SERPs
Missing relevant keywords
You can download the free root cause analysis template below and use it to identify possible causes and solutions for problems you encounter at work. RCA templates can help you resolve potential issues that may not be apparent at first.
Turn solutions into action through workflows
RCA won't bring immediate results, but finding the root cause of a problem can fix it forever. After you find a solution that works, you need to create a plan. asanawork processProvide a single source of information to set goals, monitor progress, and watch problems disappear in real time.
Cause analysis tools are helpful tools for conducting a root cause analysis for a problem or situation. They include: Fishbone diagram: Identifies many possible causes for an effect or problem and sorts ideas into useful categories. Pareto chart: Shows on a bar graph which factors are more significant.What is a good tool for identifying possible root cause? ›
Cause analysis tools are helpful tools for conducting a root cause analysis for a problem or situation. They include: Fishbone diagram: Identifies many possible causes for an effect or problem and sorts ideas into useful categories. Pareto chart: Shows on a bar graph which factors are more significant.What are the 7 steps of root cause analysis? ›
- Define the Problem. It seems really simple, but defining the problem might not be as obvious as it looks. ...
- Gather Data. ...
- Find the Cause(s) ...
- Find Solutions. ...
- Develop Strategies to Correct/Prevent. ...
- Report Out. ...
- Monitor the Solutions and Close the Loop. ...
- Revisit Over Time.
4) The five “W's” of Root Cause Analysis are: a) Who, what, where, when, why.What are the five identifiable steps of RCA? ›
- Define the problem. Analyze what you see happening, and identify the precise symptoms so that you can form a problem statement.
- Gather data. ...
- Identify causal factors. ...
- Determine the root cause(s). ...
- Recommend and implement solutions.
Putting it out in simple words, the 5 Whys method simply involves asking “Why” until all the symptoms of a problem trace down its root cause. It is often used in combination with other methods like the Cause and Effect Diagram. However, it works equally well when used as a standalone RCA method.How do you identify a problem in root cause analysis? ›
- Step One: Define the Problem. What do you see happening? ...
- Step Two: Collect Data. What proof do you have that the problem exists? ...
- Step Three: Identify Possible Causal Factors. ...
- Step Four: Identify the Root Cause(s) ...
- Step Five: Recommend and Implement Solutions.
The fault tree analysis is another method of determining the root cause of a particular problem. It uses Boolean logic to determine the cause of the problem in any undesirable event. As the name implies, this tool involves creating a diagram that looks like trees where all potential causes are written down as branches.What are the 6 P's of root cause analysis? ›
Causes are often grouped into major categories, which are classically defined as the 6 Ms (or the 6 Ps): Man/Mind Power (People), Method (Process), Machines (Program), Materials (Product), Measurements (Policy), and Milieu/Mother Nature (Place).What does a good root cause analysis look like? ›
A Good Root Cause Analysis Avoids Blame and Focuses on Prevention. By revealing multiple causes using this system approach, you are able to demonstrate that there is never one single cause to a problem—meaning, a problem isn't one person's fault either.
RCA helps to prevent recurrence, improve quality, and increase customer satisfaction. There are many tools and techniques for RCA, but some of the most common ones are the 5 Whys, the fishbone diagram, the Pareto chart, the scatter diagram, and the fault tree analysis.What is the 5 Y of RCA? ›
The Five Whys strategy involves looking at any problem and drilling down by asking: "Why?" or "What caused this problem?" While you want clear and concise answers, you want to avoid answers that are too simple and overlook important details.What is the but why technique? ›
The "But why?" technique is one method used to identify underlying causes of a community issue. These underlying factors are called "root causes." The "But why?" technique examines a problem by asking questions to find out what caused it. Each time an answer is given, a follow-up "But why?" is asked.How do you document a root cause analysis? ›
Root cause analysis documentation lists the steps taken to identify the problem and determine the cause, and also describes the approach that will be used to address the problem and prevent against it going forward. Diagrams illustrating cause-and-effect relationships may also be included as part of the analysis.How do I report RCA? ›
Root cause analysis (RCA) statements must be written as 'cause and effect' statements. An RCA report must include a risk reduction action plan. RCA reports identify risks and recommend solutions that are communicated to health service management.How do you write a RCA problem statement? ›
A problem statement is a phrase that summarizes your team's pain points. It's important to find a balance with your problem statement - you want it to be descriptive, but not too descriptive. If your problem statement is too narrow, you'll rush to find alternative solutions too soon.How do you write a root cause statement? ›
- #1: Describes the reason for the action or outcome, not the action itself. ...
- #2: Clearly links to the problem(s) or risk factor(s) that were previously identified. ...
- #3: Includes values for the current state, when appropriate. ...
- #4: Is the natural inverse of the solution.