What is Root Cause Analysis (RCA)?

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a method that identifies and isolates the root cause of problems. Root causes are those factors that can be eliminated to prevent an adverse event from happening.

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) assumes that it’s more efficient to prevent and solve underlying problems than treating symptoms or putting out fires. A variety of techniques and principles can be used to determine the root cause of an event or trend. Root Cause Analysis (RCA) can identify the root causes of an event or trend, and not just cause and effect.

Root cause analysis (RCA) is crucial to problem-solving. Preventing an event from happening is better than reacting to its harmful consequences. RCA is a permanent solution that eliminates the cause of the defect.

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) Core principles

Effective root cause analysis is guided by a few principles, some of which you should already know. These principles will not only improve the quality of the analysis, but they will also help the analyst gain the trust of clients or other stakeholders.

  • Do not ignore the importance of treating symptoms for temporary relief.
  • Instead of focusing on symptoms, fix the root cause.
  • Instead of focusing on WHO or WHAT caused the event, think about HOW and WHY it happened.
  • You can prevent or replicate the root cause of an issue in the future.
  • Give enough information to guide corrective action.
  • Recognize that there may be multiple root causes.
  • Use your method to find cause-effect evidence that supports root cause claims.

The above principles show that it is important to use a holistic and comprehensive approach when analyzing deep issues or causes. We should not only identify the root cause but also provide context and information that will lead to an action or decision. A good analysis should be actionable.

Goals and benefits

The goals of root cause analysis (RCA) are:

  1. To identify the cause of an event or problem. 
  2. To fully understand and fix, compensate or learn from the root causes. 
  3. To use the information to prevent future problems or repeat successes. 

The third goal of RCA, which is to improve the quality of analysis, is crucial. RCA can be used to modify system and core processes in a way that avoids future problems. To reduce future concussions, root cause analysis may be more effective than treating symptoms. It may be productive to treat the individual symptoms. It may seem like you are solving a lot of problems, but f we fail to identify the root cause of the problem, we will face the exact same problem over again.

3 main categories of Root Causes found in Root Cause Analysis

  1. Physical causes – Tangible, metal items that have failed in some way (e.g., the brakes on a car stopped working).
  2. Human causes – People have done something wrong or failed to do what was necessary. Physical causes are usually caused by human factors (e.g., brake fluid was not filled properly, which resulted in brakes failure).
  3. Organizational Causes – A system or process that people use to make decisions and do their work is flawed (for instance, everyone assumed that someone else filled the brake fluid, even though no one was responsible for vehicle maintenance).

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) examines all three types. This involves identifying the root causes of the problems, analyzing the patterns, and pointing out the flaws within the system. This can often mean that RCA uncovers more than one root cause.

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) can be applied to any situation. Good judgment and common sense are required to determine how far you should go in your investigation. 

5 steps to Root Cause Analysis

1- Define the problem

  • What do you see happening next?
  • What are the symptoms?

2- Collect data

  • How do you prove that there is a problem?
  • How long has this problem been around?
  • What is the effect of the problem?

Before you can look at the factors that contributed to the problem, you need to fully analyze the situation. Your RCA will be more effective if you bring together all the people involved – front-line staff and experts – who are familiar with the situation. The people who are most familiar can help you gain a better understanding of your problem.

3- Identify Possible Causal Factors

  • Which sequence of events leads you to the problem?
  • What conditions are necessary for the problem to be solved?
  • What are the other problems that surround the central problem’s occurrence?

This stage is where you identify as many causal factors as possible. It is common for people to identify only one or two causes and then stop. However, this is not enough. RCA is not about treating the obvious. It’s about digging deeper.

4- Identify the root cause(s)

  • What is the cause of the causal factor?
  • Is there a real cause for the problem?

To examine the root causes of each factor, use the same tools that you used in Step Three to identify causal factors. These tools encourage you to look deeper at every level of cause-and-effect.

5- Recommend and Implement Solutions

  • What can you do now to stop the problem from happening again?
  • What will it take to implement the solution?
  • Who will be responsible?
  • What are the potential risks associated with implementing the solution?

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) Tools

Although Root Cause Analysis (RCA), can be performed using a variety of tools, it is not possible to use a single method. Instead, quality managers will choose the best approach for their organization and team members using brainstorming techniques.

Fault Tree Analysis (FTA)

Another method to determine the root cause of a problem is called fault tree analysis. Boolean logic is used to identify the root cause of any problem. This tool creates a diagram that looks similar to trees, where all probable causes are listed as branches.

Scatter Diagram

A scatter plot, also known as a scatter graph/scatter chart, uses dots to represent two numeric variables. Each dot’s position on the horizontal or vertical axis represents the value of a data point. To observe relationships between variables, scatter plots can be used.

Pareto Charts

Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist in the 1900s, created a Pareto chart. It is a simple bar graph that ranks related measures in decreasing order. A Pareto diagram serves two purposes: to separate significant and trivial problems. Teams will be able to see the various aspects of a problem and determine where they should focus their improvement efforts. The diagram shows that the higher the improvement, the lower the bar. interrelated. This will allow you to see the true cause of the problem and strategize your approach.

The 5-Why Analysis

This is a technique that allows you to find the root cause of your problem. You can dig deeper into the problem by asking “Why?” five times. This will allow you to discover that the answers are.

Fishbone Diagram (or Ishikawa Diagram)

fishbone diagram, also known as the Ishikawa diagram, is useful in root cause analysis. It is similar to the fault tree diagram and is named after its shape, a fishbone. This allows you to organize causes into sub-categories such as methods, measurements, materials, and many others to make it easier to determine the cause.

Some tips for Effective Root Cause Analysis

Ask questions to clarify information. This will help us get closer to the answers. We are more likely to discover the root cause if we can investigate every cause. Once we are certain that we have found the root cause of the problem, we can continue to ask questions such as: Why is this the root cause? What can be done to fix the root cause and prevent it from happening again? To find the underlying cause of the matter, ask simple questions such as “why”, “how” or “so what is that saying here?”

Get fresh eyes by working with a group

Any extra eyes, whether it is a partner or a team of colleagues, will help us find solutions faster and prevent bias. Additional perspectives and opinions can be helpful in challenging our assumptions.

Future RCA planning

It is important to understand the process of root cause analysis. Notes are encouraged. Ask questions about the process. Ask questions about the analysis process to determine if it is best suited for your business.

In conclusion

Root cause analysis can be a powerful tool to pinpoint the root cause of a problem. RCA is used primarily to diagnose problems, but it can also be used to determine the root cause for success. It’s a clever idea to determine the root cause of success, overachievement, or missed deadlines. This type of analysis can help us prioritize and protect key factors, and it might even be possible to convert success in one area to success in another.

Smart quality managers and organizations use Root Cause Analysis (RCA) to find reasons for extraordinary performance or outcomes. This is not about defects, but repeating the bright successes by finding factors and elements that contributed to those impressive results. It’s not just a matter of luck; it’s a way to make it a daily habit.