In every enterprise – regardless of the seniority of the business, market position, or industry in which it operates daily – mistakes, problems, accidents or failures happen. In such situations, those in charge often try to take countermeasures as soon as possible, which helps in the short term but does not guarantee that the situation will reoccur (generating further costs and consuming owned resources)

A better solution then, is to conduct a study such as Root Cause Analysis (RCA). Below we explain what this tool is, what its purpose is as well as what positive results its application can bring to an organization.

What is Root cause analysis?

Root cause analysis is a widely employed tool that works not only in a variety of fields (from engineering to healthcare, medicine and business to manufacturing or quality management), but sometimes can also come in handy in our daily lives. Root cause analysis is an approach that through its systematic process leads to identifying the basis of problems, incidents and failures that have both already occurred and are potential.

Making use of it comes as the consequence of thinking that actions focused on this aspect – that is, the real essence of the difficulty – is usually because it is more effective than simply reacting to symptoms that may reappear some time later.

Benefits of Root cause analysis

The main benefit associated with root cause analysis is the prevention of recurrence, which becomes possible precisely by removing the reasons why issues and failures happen. This improves the quality of the products, services or processes offered, reduces the costs incurred and ensures more optimal use of resources. However, this is not the only positive result of adopting this technique – among additional benefits we can mention:

  • Better risk management – root cause analysis helps understand what factors can lead to problems, enabling more effective risk management for both one-time projects and day-to-day operations,
  • Increased safety – In sectors such as industry, medicine or transportation, RCA helps to identify hazards (the substrate of accidents), which increases the level of safety,
  • Improve customer satisfaction – By eliminating the reasons for complaints or grievances, the customer’s relationship with our brand improves.

Objectives of root cause analysis

It might seem that the overriding goal of root cause analysis is to understand the actual reason behind the issue or failure that occurred, which stands in opposition to focusing only on the immediate symptoms and taking corrective action. However, we should stress that such action is only a manifestation of the use of the tool described. This is because RCA aims – through specific steps – to identify areas for improvements, leading to an increase in efficiency, quality of undertaken steps as well and speed of occurring processes.

Thus, adopting Root cause analysis supports the continuous improvement of products, services or processes, which is expected to bring a positive result for all stakeholders (employees, customers, business partners, etc.).

How to carry out the RCA?

How should the RCA process be carried out to make sure it produces the expected results? The best way is to follow these steps:

  1. Identify the problem – choose a specific problem, incident or failure that you want to investigate, and then describe exactly what happened and what the effects were.
  2. Gather data – use reports, documentation, records, witness testimony and other available sources to get a complete picture of the situation.
  3. Identify potential causes – focus on identifying all factors that may have caused the problem (e.g., with an Ishikawa diagram). Remember that some of these may be hidden or not obvious.
  4. Test potential causes – Once potential causes are identified, they should get tested to confirm or rule out their involvement in the matter
  5. Identify the root – find the reason behind the failure that matters most (i.e., has the worst effects).
  6. Implement corrective actions – based on the identified reasons, develop specific corrective actions that will reduce or eliminate the risk of recurrence of the problem. Once you have implemented them, remember to evaluate their effectiveness, and stay flexible (as corrective actions may need to be adjusted as new information becomes available).

If you are not sure what’s truly the source of the difficulty, you can ask your employees for their opinion. A project and team management system, Firmbee, will help you maintain open communication. With the check-ins feature, you can send an automatic message to all (or selected) members of your team asking them to respond to a given topic. You can also set these as regular notifications (e.g., on certain days and times). In this way, you will gain a broader perspective on a given problem and learn about the potential reasons behind it from other people’s perspectives.

Root cause analysis

Root cause analysis – summary

If you are looking for a way to improve quality, efficiency, safety or customer satisfaction within the products or services you offer, root cause analysis should suit you fine. However, you must humbly accept that RCA is not a magical medicine that makes all problems vanish. Nonetheless, applying the principles of the Root cause analysis to find out the basis of certain issue significantly increases the chances that you will succeed and achieve your business goals. What’s more, don’t forget that RCA ensures the troubling matters to occur less frequently (or be eliminated), which always comes as good news to all involved parties.

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Author: Klaudia Kowalczyk

A graphic & UX Designer which conveys into design what cannot be conveyed in words. For him, every used color, line or font has a meaning. Passionate in graphic and web design.