Sunday, October 20, 2019

Root Cause Analysis

Root Cause Analysis:

    Many times we are challenged with solving problems and answering questions we may know nothing about.  Solving problems that we are clue-less about is a skill that anyone can learn, and learning this skill will make it seem as if you know and understand things that you really do/did not.  Often after you perform this, you will understand the situation much better than you had previously understood it.  I believe that there is a clear process to go from the introduction to any problem to understanding what exactly it is that we have to solve in order to operate optimally.  This problem solving skill translates to many areas of life.  I will outline this process below as I understand it.

1) Understand and interpret the problem
2) Reduce the problem to causal circumstances (simply ask why and answer yourself)
3) Further refine causal circumstances (keep asking why) until you arrive at redundant and/or recurring results
4) Re-interpret this root cause and begin the problem solving at root cause process

    Understanding the initial problem is important.  This is the core reason that we are aiming at solving the root cause of any situation after all.  A good deal of time proportionally is required at this step as this is the meta-problem that dominates all of your other efforts.  Really understand the mechanics of the problem and ask yourself the reasons why it is important that there is a solution.
    Reducing the problem to causal circumstances is perhaps the most technically advanced skill we will have to apply for problem solving.  This has to do with stepping outside of any emotional ties to the current situation and problem and asking yourself, "Why is this happening?".  The most difficult portion of this has to do with removing ego and personal attachment.  Many times the problems that we are solving involve us to some degree, and it is important that we do not let our involvement get in the way of accurately exposing the causality.

    There is no set amount of steps to further refine the causal circumstances.  This is all dependent on the depth of the problem.  Sometimes, especially in life, we have to move through dozens of layers of "why" in order to expose the root cause of an issue.  Sometimes this can be achieved in just a step or two.  It is important to walk into this process with an open mind and a willingness to dedicate mental resources to the solution.
    Once we believe that we have arrived at the root cause, it is time to get to the real work.  This doesn't necessarily mean that it is the most work-intensive step, however, just that the meat of the work that matters will be done here.  This is where we address the root issue of the problem and then re-evaluate to make sure that addressing the root cause has impacted the surface problem positively.  Sometimes we may find that we address the root cause and we have to then re-address a different root, or that the problem was multi-factoral, or perhaps that your solution to the root problem was just not sufficient.


    This is a tool in leadership that I personally use often.  When properly used it is a great tool to analyze and implement corrections to issues.  The framework is one that is easily remembered and applicable through many areas of life outside of business.  In my case I can rely on a team to help implement solutions after I have identified root causes as to why certain things are happening.  At home, that team may just be my wife and children.  Sometimes I arrive at causes where I can apply solutions to, other times the problems are much larger than a band-aid, and a re-haul of processes must be in order to correct the surface issue.  I hope that you find this helpful, and if you have any questions feel free to contact me at my e-mail listed below.


  1. Very helpful and easy to understand.

    1. Thank you for taking your time to read this article and providing me with feedback that I can use to make my blog-space about leadership, team building, management, and entrepreneurship better! I hope you find yourself wondering back here from time to time. Have a good day, ~Josh