Root Cause Analysis – RCA – Explained
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a method used to identify the underlying cause of a problem or an incident. The goal of RCA is to identify the underlying factors that contributed to the problem, rather than simply addressing its symptoms. This information can then be used to implement effective solutions that address the root cause, rather than just treating the symptoms.
When we undercover the actual issue, we find the things that are: Specific , Controllable, Preventable.
RCA is a process that is typically used in a wide range of industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, and service industries.
RCA can also be applied to an underperforming employee, by trying to identify the cause of the bad performance, whether it is knowledge, skill, environmental, will or motivational. This can be detected when coaching to metrics lead to no change, signalling a necessity to coach to behaviour, after of course determining the root cause (using discovery questions or methods).
There are several different techniques that can be used for RCA, but some of the most common include:
- Fishbone diagram (also known as an Ishikawa diagram): a visual tool that can be used to identify and organize the potential causes of a problem.
- 5 Whys: a simple yet effective method that involves repeatedly asking “why” something happened, in order to drill down to the underlying cause.
- Fault Tree Analysis: a technique that uses a logical, systematic approach to identify the potential causes of an incident or problem by identifying the events that led to it. (Mostly for engineering)
- Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA): a method used to identify and prioritize potential failure modes in a process, system, or product, and to assess the risks associated with those failure modes.
Examples of RCA:
- A manufacturing company is experiencing a high rate of defective products. Through RCA, the company discovers that the root cause is a problem with the machine used to produce the products.
- A hospital is experiencing a high rate of infections among patients. Through RCA, the hospital discovers that the root cause is a lack of proper sterilization procedures.
- A service company is experiencing a high rate of customer complaints. Through RCA, the company discovers that the root cause is a lack of proper training for its customer service representatives.
In all these examples, RCA helped to identify the underlying cause of the problem, and allowed the company to implement effective solutions that addressed the root cause.
Performing Root Cause Analysis (RCA) can involve several steps, but a common approach includes the following:
- Define the problem: Clearly define the problem or incident that occurred, including the time, location, and any relevant details.
- Gather data: Collect data related to the problem, including facts, observations, and information from witnesses or those involved. This can include things like process flow diagrams, process control data, maintenance records, and incident reports.
- Identify potential causes: Use tools like fishbone diagrams, 5 Whys, Fault Tree Analysis, or FMEA to identify and organize the potential causes of the problem.
- Analyze the data: Evaluate the data and information collected to identify the most likely causes of the problem. Look for patterns or trends that might indicate the root cause.
- Verify the root cause: Test the identified root cause by gathering additional data or by carrying out a cause-and-effect analysis.
- Develop solutions: Develop solutions that address the root cause of the problem, and prioritize them based on their potential impact and feasibility.
- Implement solutions: Implement the chosen solutions and monitor their effectiveness to ensure that the problem has been resolved.
- Communicate and Document: Communicate the results of the RCA to relevant stakeholders and document the process and the results in a report.
It is important to keep in mind that RCA is an iterative process, and that it may be necessary to go back and repeat certain steps if new information becomes available or if the solutions are not effective.
It is also important to involve the right people in the process, including those who were directly or indirectly involved in the incident, experts in the relevant field, and people from different departments and levels of the organization.