Kevin Newey, CQP MCQI and NGN member contributes his 10 steps approach on the powerful tool, Root Cause Analysis.
As organisations use risk-based thinking to take advantage of opportunities, while minimising threats, things can occasionally go wrong, even in a process operating at a six-sigma quality level. There may be unidentified risks, risks that were incorrectly analysed or failures in risk mitigation all of which can lead to an incident.
Root Cause Analysis is a structured process that aims to identify one (or more) ultimate root causes of an incident. While there are many different tools at your disposal during the process; 5 Why, brainstorming, Pareto chart, Fishbone (Ishikawa) diagram, regression analysis, to name a few, there are some common themes that will help you get the best from your Root Cause Analysis.
1.Incident management is not enough
Root Cause Analysis is not incident management and requires different skills. Yes it’s important that the customer gets a replacement for the defective unit, but it will not prevent the problem from recurring.
You need enthusiastic, inquisitive people gathering and analysing the information and following up on any actions.
An open, no-blame culture is necessary to get to the root cause without people becoming defensive and covering up mistakes.
4. Clear Problem Statement
It’s critical to gain a common, precise, and accurate understanding of what went wrong so that you can under why it went wrong.
5. Be Methodical
Use your company’s structured process in a methodical fashion. Different tools are more effective at different stages of the process. If you don’t have a structured process, develop one before you need it and iterate to improve it.
6. In Data We Trust
Get empirical evidence where possible, rather than relying on assumptions of how people ‘know’ it happened. Depending on the failure and the cost, you may be able to run a trial to replicate the failure.
7. Dig Out The Root
Stopping the analysis too early may address a causal factor but it is unlikely to find the root cause and prevent the incident from recurring. Make sure that you go deep and broad and find the causes of the causes.
8. Act & Assess
All that time collecting and analysing data will have been wasted if you don’t (or are not empowered to) act. Trial the solution where possible but, make sure that you follow up to test the effectiveness of your intervention and ensure it’s ‘bedded in’.
9. Critical Few
Root Cause Analysis takes time and resources to do well. Make sure that you’re only using the technique on the key problems that really matter to your organisation of the process will be overwhelmed and likely fail on point eight!
10. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Root Cause Analysis is a business change as the outcome will be a change in process, equipment/software, or skills/training. As with any change frequent communication to all stakeholders will be important to success.
Root Cause Analysis is more than a collection of tools, by using a methodical process and keeping in mind the points above it can be an important way to drive improvement in your organisation, improving both profits and stakeholder satisfaction.