In the previous lesson, we elaborated on an incident at a factory where an oil spill led to an accident, and explained why it is important to identify the root cause of the issue and take appropriate corrective actions, so that similar incidents can be avoided in the future.
In this lesson, you will learn the five steps involved in conducting a Root Cause Analysis, where the first two steps will be discussed in detail.
Browse the video to learn more and don’t forget to take the quiz at the end of the lesson.
This lesson is in a video format
We recognise that some participants prefer reading to listening. If you are one of them, then you can access a transcript of the lesson by clicking on the View Transcript button below the video.
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is the process of uncovering the cause of the problem in a systematic, and not in an ad-hoc manner, or by trial and error.
In the absence of such a systematic approach, we can find ourselves merely troubleshooting, rather than successfully resolving the problem.
In this lesson, we will look at the steps involved in conducting such an analysis.
We will be illustrating the Root Cause Analysis tool using an example later, but let’s start by enumerating the four steps that comprise this tool:
Define the Problem → Collect all Relevant Data → Identify Causal Factors → Identify the Root Causes
Let us look at each of these steps in detail.
The following questions could help you do this:
These questions allow you to separate fact from interpretation
Here’s an example of facts versus interpretation? The witness says, “It was obvious the accused was in a murderous rage. I saw him step out of home at five in the morning, whereas he is never up till eight, otherwise. He was bleary eyed and trembling visibly, as though he had been pondering the crime all night and was now filled with nervous energy at the prospect of carrying out the heinous act. Five minutes later, I heard the victim scream, and a few minutes later, I observed the accused, covered in blood, running out of the apartment. That is when I ran to the telephone booth to dial the police. It is clear to me that the accused is guilty.”
The lawyer corrects the witness by saying, “Mr. Witness, what you observed was the accused leave his home at five in the morning, he was bleary eyed and trembling. You heard a scream five minutes later and the accused running out of the building. Those alone are the facts. Your assertion that the accused was in a murderous rage, that he had been pondering the crime all night, and that the prospect was trembling at the prospect of carrying out a crime are your interpretations of the facts. There could well be multiple explanations for each of these.”
Bottom line: if you want to identify the root cause of a problem, define the problem by separating facts from interpretation.
The next question that you will ask is “What is the outcome of this problem?”
Now, any problem can be caused by a single cause or a multiplicity of causes. If it is the latter, then it is important to determine as to which of these could be classified as the root cause of the problem? The deepest-level cause of a problem is called the root cause. When we don’t use a systematic means of identifying all possible causes, we might end up identifying one or two factors. Such an ad-hoc study might lead us to miss the root or biggest cause contributing to the problem, altogether. We need to identify as many causal factors as possible. RCA provides us with broad groups of possible factors, which we use to for our study.
The broad groups are as under: