Introduction

The meaning of root cause analysis can be understood by taking into consideration real-life examples themselves, especially select moments when things have gone south and we wish to understand the root cause for it all to go wrong in the first place. Some root cause analysis examples are when one is sick or they have an electrical appliance at home that has gone bust, a visit to the doctor or to a technician is always done in order to find out what exactly is wrong, or the root cause of it all.

  1. What is root cause analysis?
  2. How to perform RCA?

1) What is root cause analysis?

From the aforementioned examples, one can understand that the whole point behind a root cause analysis is to find out why a specific problem occurs and what exactly set it off. And more importantly, the idea here is to find a remedy for the same and hopefully not encounter such problems later ahead.

Therefore, one can say that root cause analysis is a process of identifying problems and finding the optimal solution to handle the same. The root cause analysis process works on the idea that a systematic method of treatment for underlying issues is a much more effective way than simply treating symptoms.

There are many techniques, principles and even methods that one can follow in order to perform an analysis for the root cause of an issue with ease. If one overlooks what are merely superficial causes and effects then this method of analysis can be used to show where even processes or entire systems failed which then went on to cause an issue. 

That being said, benefits of root cause analysis are associated with its goals, which are as follows:

  • The first goal of conducting an RCA is to locate and successfully find where the problem is in the first place. This will effectively help with the other steps as one first understands what to look for and where to look for it 
  • The second goal is all about learning what went wrong and to fully understand the various characteristics and attributes that may be associated with it. this step helps one pinpoint similar problems that may surface elsewhere as well
  • The third and final goal is to use whatever one has been able to learn from the previous 2 steps and ensure corrective measures are taken in such a way that these issues don’t repeat themselves. 

As the ultimate goal of any kind of analysis done depends on the next step after taking corrective measures, the last part is the most important. Core processes can also be modified after doing an RCA to prevent any further problems from arising at all. And while solving the problems in parts or finding an overall solution as a whole may seem to be able to fix the problem, it’s only going to be effective in the long term if the root causes are corrected and not left to return at a later stage.

2) How to perform RCA?

Having understood the basics of RCA, now one needs to understand how to do a root cause analysis. As this is a slightly complex procedure, there are many ways to going about dealing with it due to the large number of techniques involved.

  • Five Why’s

The first on the list of techniques, it’s important to understand what are the 5 whys of root cause analysis. Often referred to as the annoying yet effective toddler approach, this concept is all about asking “but WHY?”. The goal here is to keep asking why until the real crux of the problem is reached. When one keeps asking these why questions, the root problem is bound to be discovered. The root cause analysis 5 whys method is an effective tool to ensure that one doesn’t live and remain on assumptions and can instead actually be confident about the assertions.

  • Change Analysis/Event analysis

The next tool on the list is all about carefully analyzing all the changes that have lead to a certain event. If a system goes offline or starts malfunctioning, a good way to understand where it all went wrong is to start working on analyzing the various changes that have taken place to that point.

This can also be done by dividing the process into 4 main steps. The first part is all about putting together a list of all the potential events or changes that could be responsible for the failure. The second step involves segregating the changes based on the user’s tendency to influence it. The third step is to go over every change and understand whether it can cause the failure or is completely unrelated to it. The final step is all about curing the cause. 

  • Cause and Effect Fishbone diagram

The final technique on the list includes the root cause analysis fishbone diagram and the basic understanding of root cause analysis fishbone method. It is also referred to as the Ishikawa root cause analysis method which is all about visually mapping a cause-and-effect relationship.

It also helps one put a finger on what may be the possible causes of a problem and then use a structured and well-defined method to reach a solution. In the diagram, the problem is drawn in the centre and is followed by drawing around it all the possible problems in a way that the diagram looks like a fish skeletal system, with the problem being the spine and the various possible causes being the bones. When using this method effectively and correctly, it’s easier for one to pinpoint what may the overall cause of a problem.

Conclusion

A root cause analysis is an effective tool to help its user’s pinpoint problems in a system. It has a variety of techniques and can be done anyone who has a basic idea of whatever it is that they are looking for. The best root cause analysis tools are all helpful in ensuring a solution is arrived at and that the overall problem is fixed without issues. 

If you are interested in making it big in the world of data and evolve as a Future Leader, you may consider our Integrated Program in Business Analytics, a 10-month online program, in collaboration with IIM Indore!

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