How many times do you think that you have solved a problem only to have it come back to haunt you again and again? When the same problem occurs that you think you have fixed, there is a good chance you only addressed symptoms and did not get to the root cause of the problem.
It takes tenacity coupled with the skillful problem solving to get to the root cause of a problem. Root cause analysis involves searching backwards from an undesirable effect (or problem) to its cause(s) and addressing those causes.
"Root Cause" implies that there is a single cause for a problem when in fact, there may be multiple causes working together to trigger the undesirable event. The objective of Root Cause Analysis is to identify potential causes, determine which cause(s) are root cause(s) and address those root causes to ensure the problem does not recur.
Seven Sure-Fire Ways to Derail RCA
- The problem is poorly defined.
- A systematic approach is not used.
- Investigations are stopped prematurely.
- Decisions are based on guesses, hunches or assumptions.
- An inadequate level of detail is used to get to the real root cause.
- Interim containment fixes are sometimes allowed to become "permanent."
- The skills, knowledge and experience needed to uncover the root cause are not available.
The identification and analysis of root causes is rarely easy; if it was the problem would have been solved a long time ago! Getting to the root cause of problems requires digging deep into the process that the problem "lives in." However, root cause analysis can be made easier by using a formal and standardized problem-solving approach.