Root cause analysis is a systematic analysis of an issue to identify the root causes rather than the symptoms. Managers will want to use this type of analysis to uncover the underlying causes of problems. If you really want to get to the bottom of a problem, then you need to take the time to identify the root cause, otherwise you will just be addressing the symptoms.
Before beginning this type of analysis, the group needs to understand the difference between cause and effect. Addressing the effect is like addressing a symptom…the real problem has not been identified therefore it won’t go away. Only by identifying the cause will the problem go away.
There are two main methods for identifying root causes: cause and effect charting and fishbone diagramming.
Cause and effect charting:
When analyzing a problem, divide a flip chart in two and write "effects" on the right and "causes" on the left.
For example: Noisy Muffler
When someone states an idea, identify if it is a cause or an effect and list in the appropriate column. Continue until all causes have been identified.
Use the fishbone diagram to systematically sort all of the contributing causes for problems being analyzed. Typical cause categories include: people, equipment, methods / processes, materials, policies, environment & measurement.
Write the "issue" at the "head" of the fish.
Determine the major cause categories and write at the end of each "bone."
Brainstorm all possible causes on each "rib" of the fish.
Once all the causes have been identified, ask the group to brainstorm solutions for each of them. If there are a significant number of causes identified, prioritize the causes (you can use the critieria based grid or impact analysis) then brainstorm solutions.
Create an action plan using SMART goals.