Problem Solving With Root Cause Analysis

Root Cause Analysis is quite simply, a technique used when analysing the symptoms of a problem in an attempt to identify its definitive cause. One important point to clarify is that an event that deters a process from flowing efficiently is known as an “issue" whereas the repetition of an issue continuously can be described as a problem. Root Cause Analysis can be applied to problem analysis. When problems are not effectively studied, unsuitable resolutions may be endorsed. 

By applying the root cause analysis technique to problem solving, one can avoid proffering an incorrect solution to a problem. Business analysts should not offer a solution recommendation until the underlying cause of the problem has been identified and understood. The first step in solving a problem is identifying the root cause of the problem. 

The fishbone diagram (see below) visually illustrates how root cause analysis is structured. The main classes of possible causes are linked to the “backbone” of the fishbone diagram as shown below. The diagram helps to organize ideas for further analysis.         

Fishbone Diagram

Fishbone Diagram

Perhaps the most ideal and complementary technique that aids in describing root cause analysis is the five whys.

The Five Whys

When conducting a root cause analysis, “Why” becomes a key question for the business analyst to ask. This is because it is often used to establish the root cause of a problem and can be applied multiple times in problem analysis for as long as it takes to arrive at the correct answer. The “five whys” model allows one to ask “why” as many times as possible until the root cause of the problem is known. The root cause may even be identified after a few whys without necessarily reaching the 5th why or beyond. 

The five whys technique can be illustrated using the example below:

Problem: The organisation is currently experiencing a lot of theft 

1.  Why? The security agents are afraid of confrontation

2.  Why? They are defenceless 

3.  Why? They are not sufficiently equipped to deal with the menace 

4.  Why? The organisation did not allocate enough funds to equip them

5.  Why? Management did not prioritise the matter (root cause) 

Root Cause Analysis is based on the presumptions that:

There may be more than one factor contributing to existing problems

A problem is best corrected from its origin instead of dealing only with its visible effects.

As a form of proactive analysis, the root cause technique may also be used for identifying problems that are likely to occur and design preventive actions to tackle them when they do.

When using this technique, it is important to ensure that it is the root cause that is identified and not the symptoms of the problem. 

Picture Attribution: Download “Analysis Word Shows Investigation Or Research” by Stuart Miles/