Truly great leaders understand that success is achieved by eliminating problems before they happen. This is where a root cause analysis can be invaluable.

What is Root Cause Analysis?

Root cause analysis (RCA) is a process used to determine the underlying cause of a problem. When the underlying cause or root of a problem is identified and understood, it can be remedied and avoided in the future. The easiest way to understand root cause analysis is to think about common problems. If we are sick, we will go to a doctor and ask him to look for the cause of our disease. If our car stops working, we will ask a mechanic to find the root cause of the problem.

Root Cause Analysis Objectives

First objective of root cause analysis is to discover the root cause of a problem or event.

Second goal is to fully understand how to fix, compensate, or learn from any underlying problem within the root cause.

Third objective is to apply what we learn from this analysis to systematically prevent future problems or repeat successes.

Root Cause Analysis Methodology

Root cause analysis can be performed with a collection of principles, techniques, and methodologies that can be leveraged to identify the root causes of an event or trend. Looking beyond cause and surface effect, RCA can show where processes or systems failed or caused a problem in the first place. The key to discovering the root cause of a particular problem is asking "why?" Why did that team fail? Why did that employee make that decision? And so on. Each "why" question should lead to an additional question until, eventually, a root cause is identified.

Root Cause Analysis Meeting

A root cause analysis meeting has a clear problem, a leader, and stakeholders. The most important guideline for the meeting itself is that the purpose is to learn and improve, not blame or let off steam. It must be assumed that any problem is preventable and worth preventing. Problems are caused by insufficiently robust systems rather than individual incompetence. Even if a person makes a mistake, we must ask ourselves, "Why do our tools make that mistake so easy to make?"

The person leading the meeting should lead the team in brainstorming for each of the selected problems. It is important that the leader is trained to choose one and only one solution for each problem, and then assign it to someone to solve it. The cost of the solutions is proportional to the problem caused. This should facilitate the acceptance of other managers or executives. After all, if it's a serious problem like site service outage, do you really want to be seen as the person standing in the way of the solution? And if it's a minor problem, will they really object to a few extra hours of work here and there, if it's for a good cause?

Basic principles

There are some basic principles that guide effective root cause analysis. This will not only help the quality of the analysis, but will also help the analyst gain the trust and acceptance of the stakeholders.

Focus on correcting and remedying the root causes rather than just the symptoms. Don't ignore the importance of treating symptoms for short-term relief.

Keep in mind that there can be, and often are, multiple root causes. Focus on how and why something happened.

Be methodical and find concrete evidence of cause and effect to back up root cause claims.

Provide enough information to inform a course of corrective action. Consider how a root cause can be prevented (or replicated) in the future.

When analyzing deep root causes and problems, it is important to take a holistic and holistic approach. In addition to discovering the root cause, we must strive to provide context and information that results in an action or decision.

The 5 Whys Approach

One of the most common techniques for conducting a root cause analysis is the 5 Whys approach. We can also think of this as the upset child approach. For each answer to a Why question, we must continue with "Ok, but Why?" Common wisdom suggests that around five Why questions can lead us to most root causes.

We can think of an example related to a concussion.

First, a rugby player, subject to the problem, will present a problem: Why do I have such a severe headache? This is our first Why. First answer: because I can't see well.

Second why: why can't you see well? Second answer: Because my head hit the ground.

Third why: Why did your head hit the ground? Third answer: I was hit on the ground and I hit my head hard.

Fourth why: Why hit the ground so much? Fourth answer: because he was not wearing a helmet.

Fifth why: Why didn't you wear a helmet? Fifth answer: because we did not have enough helmets in our wardrobe.

Identifyingthe Root Causein 5 easy steps

By following these five steps you will be able to identify not only what went wrong, but also why, and use that understanding to ensure that similar problems and errors are avoided in the future.

Realize the problem

First, you need to identify what really went wrong. What problem do you hope to solve by undertaking a root cause analysis process? Generally, there are three basic types of problems: Material-based problems - These problems occur when a specific material item has failed in some way, such as a piece of machinery. People-based problems:

A people-based problem occurs when human error is the cause of the current problem. Often a people problem will lead to a material problem. For example, a piece of machinery fails because an employee did not perform regular maintenance on it. Organization-based problems: An organization problem arises from a process or company policy that causes a problem to occur. Continuing with our example, maintenance on the faulty part of machinery occurred because the company's process for assigning maintenance is faulty. We decide which of these problems is to blame for the current problem and the symptoms of the problem you are dealing with.

Collect a sufficient amount of data

Now that we know what the surface problem is and the symptoms it is causing, we should collect as much data as possible. In this regard, we must ask questions such as: "How long has this problem existed?" and, "What impact is it having on daily operations?" It is beneficial to obtain a multitude of opinions at this stage. People who deal with this specific problem area should be asked for their opinions on a regular basis. Your perspective will be valuable as we work to identify and eliminate the root cause of a problem.

Identify associated causal factors

Now the analysis aspect of root cause analysis really comes into play in full force. Let's start this step by rebuilding an event timeline. What led to this current problem? What other problems coexist with the current one you are dealing with? Identifying a timeline and asking these kinds of questions will allow you to begin to realize specific causal factors.

Tips for conducting an effective root cause analysis

We should ask questions to clarify the information and move closer to the answers. The more we can dig deep and question each potential cause, the more likely we are to find a root cause. Once we believe we have identified the root cause of the problem (and not just another symptom), we can ask even more questions: Why are we sure this is the root cause instead? How can we fix this root cause to prevent the problem from happening again? Use simple questions like "why?" "how?" and "what does that mean here?" to carve a path to understanding.


Whether it's a partner or a full team of colleagues, any additional eyes will help us find solutions faster, and will also serve as a check against bias. Receiving input from others will also offer additional insights, helping us to challenge our assumptions.

Get a deep understanding of root cause analysis

As we conduct a root cause analysis, it is important to know the process itself. We must find out if a certain technique or method works best for your specific business needs and environments.

Conduct root cause analysis not only for problems but for successes

Root cause analysis is a great tool to find out where something went wrong. We generally use RCA as a way to diagnose problems, but it can be just as effective in finding the root cause of success. If we find the cause of success, it's rarely a bad idea to find out the root cause of why things are going well. This type of analysis can help prioritize and preventively protect key factors, and we could translate success in one business area to success in another area.


It is important for organizations to strategically share the results of their RCAs through training and follow-up action items with the appropriate departments to prevent future mistakes and reduce the costs associated with the risk of mistakes. In addition to sharing the RCA results, organizations are expected to provide the resources and funds to implement the error prevention interventions recommended from the RCA analysis.

When staff see that these action plans are fully implemented, they are more likely to agree to report incidents, participate in the RCA process, and change their perception of the culture in the organization, bringing them closer to zero harm. At, we can advise you regardless of the focus of your thesis, even with such advanced techniques with it. We are here to fulfill your dream.

Bibliographic References

Foster, P. (2018). 5 Root Cause Analysis Tools for More Effective Problem-Solving. Beacon Quality.

“What is Boolean logic?” Lotame.

What is a Fault Tree Analysis? (2002). Quality Progress.


Root cause analysis

Root cause analysis


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