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Optimized Processes : Using Root Cause Analysis (RCA) Effectively by@47Billion

Optimized Processes : Using Root Cause Analysis (RCA) Effectively

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A root cause can be best defined as a factor that causes a non-conformance or a defect and which should be immediately and permanently eliminated through process improvement. Alternatively, it can be said that the root cause is that core issue…..that highest-level cause, which sets in motion the entire cause-effect reaction that ultimately leads to all kinds of problems.

A collective term that describes the implementation of a wide range of approaches, tools, and techniques to identify the causes of issues or problems is known as the ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS (RCA). While some RCA approaches are aimed more toward identifying true root causes among others, some are more rooted in general problem-solving techniques, and others just offer support for the core activity of analysis.

History of Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis historically can be traced back to the broader field of total quality management (TQM) fundamentals. Basically, in a nutshell, root cause analysis is a subset of the general problem-solving process, and hence root cause analysis is one of the core components in an organization’s continuous improvement efforts.

However, It is important to note here that root cause analysis by itself will not produce any noticeable results; for effective use, it must be made part of a larger problem-solving effort working towards the highest quality improvement goal.

Approaches to Root Cause Analysis

There can be many methodologies, approaches, and techniques for conducting root cause analysis, including but not limited to:

  1. Barrier analysis: This technique focuses on what kind of controls are in place in the process to either prevent or detect a problem. Focused on when and which control might have failed to trigger the event or problem.

  2. Change analysis: This approach applies to situations where an established system’s performance has degraded significantly. Such analysis explore changes made in people, equipment, information, and other influencing factors that may have contributed to the change in performance.

  3. Events & causal factor analysis: Most common & widely used for major, single-event based forensics problems, such as a bomb blast explosion, aircraft crash, etc. This process uses evidence gathered on-site and sequenced systematically to establish a timeline for the activities leading up to the accident. Once the timeline has been established, the causal and contributing factors are then identified.

  4. Management oversight and risk tree analysis: Backward analysis of undesired events to look at what occurred and why it might have occurred.

  5. Kepner-Tregoe or KT Method or Problem Solving and Decision Making(PSDM): Developed in the ’60s by Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe; it’s a systematic approach for problem-solving involving four distinct phases for resolving problems


Root Cause Analysis Diagram


Conducting Root Cause Analysis

To effectively conduct root cause analysis and carry out all related methods and processes, it's imperative to note:

  • More the Merrier: although a single person may be able to perform root cause analysis or utilize many readymade RCA tools to work simultaneously, a group or a team of people generally delivers better outcomes when they work together to find the problem causes.

  • Keep Guns Ready for the Battle: key resources who would be ultimately responsible for removing the identified root cause(s)/defect should be assigned prominent roles in the team that sets out to uncover causes.

How to Start an RCA Team?

Simple steps to follow while creating an RCA team in an organization may include, but are not limited to :

STEP 1. A decision is made to form a T-Group team to conduct the root cause analysis.

STEP 2. Team members are identified and selected from the business process/area of the organization that is facing the problem. The selected team may be supplemented by:

  • A production manager with appropriate decision-making authority to implement solutions

  • An internal customer from the business process/ areas with problems

  • A quality improvement expert, in case the other team members have little or no experience with this line of work.

STEP 3. The actual analysis process is then executed; during the analysis process, the utmost importance is placed on defining and understanding the problem, brainstorming sessions are conducted to find all possible causes, causes- effects analysis is carried out, and finally, a solution to the problem is devised.

STEP 4. During the analysis period, frequent short team meetings are to be arranged, preferably weekly or biweekly, lasting not more than 2 hours. Since meets are meant to be creative, and the agenda is quite loose, short meets are highly effective.

STEP 5. One team member is assigned the role of a supervisor for making sure the analysis progresses on track, or tasks are assigned to various members of the team as per the specialization.

STEP 6. Once the analysis is in the completion stage like a solution has been designed, and the decision to implement it has been taken. The process of implementation to complete could take anywhere between one day to several months before the desired change is complete.

Hey, Wait!! Not Only for Problems, Perform RCA for Successes Too

Root cause analysis (RCA) is a great tool for figuring out what went wrong where and how?  Traditionally most organizations would use RCA as a medium to diagnose problems, but it is an equally effective tool to find the root cause of a success factor.

An old saying goes, “A typical merchant would investigate causes only for his losses, while a smart merchant would analyze even his success.”

For example, if an organization finds the cause of success or overachievement, or an early deadline, it is not entirely a bad idea to find out the root cause of why things are going extremely well. Such an analysis would be of great help in setting priorities and pre-emptively protecting key influencers. Moreover, the success of one business area can be replicated in other areas of business that need to be transformed.

Keep it as an Option Always

Conduct it for Problems in the system or do it to analyze the success factor; RCA is a fantastic approach to follow. If it’s a challenge to internally conduct an RCA, there are numerous consulting companies, including us, that offer services for many such analytical solutions. Taking outside help would add transparency in the method and clarity to the results.

Please do write to us for more information on any of the process mining approaches; we shall be more than happy to help. Meanwhile, we will return with some more interesting mini-blogs of process mining approaches in the future.

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