Root Cause Analysis- a quality management tool

Problem solving is an integral part of continuous improvement and through the years, a number of quality management tools or productivity improvement programs have been introduced. Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is one of the mot successfully used problem solving technique, which is a core building block in an organisation’s continuous development efforts.

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is the method of tracing a problem to its origin. It is a collective term that describes a wide range of tactics, tools and techniques used to reveal causes of problems. It is the method of problem solving which points out the root cause of a particular error. When a major problem has occurred, the top priority should be to fix the issue and bring back the services to normal. But at the same time we have to figure out why the problem occurred in the first place, in order to prevent its recurrence. Elimination of the cause eliminates the generation of the problem. That’s what separates Root Cause from all other causes.

A problem can occur due to several reasons. It can be Tangible Causes (materials, equipment, facilities), People Cause (inefficient workforce), Managerial Causes (inappropriate organisational structure), Organisational Causes (system, process or policy at workplace) or Technology Causes (inadequate technology, equipment or software). RCA looks at all the types of causes, analyses and rectifies it.

Root Cause Analysis is performed through various steps from gathering the data through analysing the data and finally a successful corrective action. RCA involves

  • Define the problem clearly: diagnose the situation and the specific symptoms
  • Data collection: Identify how long the problem existed and how (severely) it impacts the organisational process
  • Identify the possible factors : Identify the factors which cause the problem
  • Detect the Root Cause: Isolate out the most pertinent reason(s)  that causes the problem
  • Define the Solution: Solutions must be developed and implemented to permanently eliminate or mitigate the Root Cause.

Some root cause analysis approaches are geared more toward identifying true root causes than others; some are more general problem-solving techniques, while others simply offer support for the core activity of root cause analysis.

Different methods or tools of RCA

  • The ‘5 Whys’ : It is the simplest method for structured root cause analysis. It is asking ‘why’ a problem occurred, continuously asking ‘why’ it happened until we identify the fundamental process element that failed.
  • Fish-bone diagram: Allow a team to identify and graphically display all the possible causes related to a problem to discover its root cause
  • Change Analysis : It helps to determine specific causes or causal elements, not necessarily a root cause
  • Pareto Analysis : A statistical approach to problem solving to identify the number of predefined causal factors that have occurred in a business or system.
  • Barrier Analysis : Rapid announcement tool designed to identify behavioural determinants

Root Cause Analysis helps to reduce turn backs and frustration, maintain customer satisfaction and reduce cost effectively. Though RCA seems simple on the surface, it requires a robust problem solving investigation. Keep in mind that root cause analysis in itself will not produce any results. It must be made part of a larger problem-solving effort, at every level and in every department or business process of the organisation.

Insights’ Radical Rooting methodology is based on this highly successful methodology. We believe that any technology solution we design and implement, must solve our client’s business problems in a clear and measurable way. Contact us to see how we can help maximise value from your technology investments.

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