Do you use a structured approach to solving the problems that occur in your organization?
Can you document and identify the root cause (the primary and primary reason) that was at the root of this problem?
Do you know the best approach to prevent the problem from recurring?
The analysis and resolution of business problems is the target of a myriad of methods and techniques that seek to establish strategies that aim to implement a systematic approach to problem solving in the shortest possible time. However, given the complexity and breadth of the types of problems that can occur in an organization, it is not always easy to find a single method, and it is usual to resort to a limited set of techniques that adapt not only to organizational culture but also to operational reality of the company.
One of the methods that stands out for its universality and adaptability is the root cause analysis method. In a generic way, this method offers a structured approach to identify the factors that originated a given event, allowing to identify the behaviors, actions or conditions necessary to implement to prevent the repetition of this same event.
In practice, the root-cause analysis method seeks to solve a problem through the following approach:
1. The problem must be documented
Beginning at the end, that is, by the analysis of the final state or the factual description of it, all data and evidence demonstrating the damaging consequences of the problem must be lifted;
2. The causes of the problem must be questioned iteratively
Based on the collection of information from the previous point, the technique of the 5 whys should be applied. This technique tries to find out the reasons for a problem, analyzing the causes that gave rise to it, according to a systematic approach in which iteratively questions the answers to the questions found in the previous iteration. The process must be carried out as many times as necessary until the root cause of the problem is identified;
3. Root causes should be identified
All root causes must be recognized and documented for further analysis, prioritization and optimization;
4. Identification of corrective actions
Analysis and documentation of corrective actions that, if implemented, would avoid the occurrence of root causes and other causes identified in the meantime. If possible, demonstrate that the implementation of these corrective actions would lead to the non-occurrence of the problem;
5. Implementation of corrective actions and remedies
To seek a consensual agreement on the measures to be implemented, with clear and attainable goals and objectives, with particular attention to the non-introduction of potential new problems;
6. Implementation of control measures
Ensure the effectiveness and correctness of measures implemented through the establishment of control and reporting measures.
Being very used in quality management systems, this technique can, for example, help the manager of continuous improvement in the correct identification of the causes that are the cause of the poor performance of the management processes. In fact, instead of stressing the reason or immediate cause of the problem, the manager should seek to find the root cause that gave rise to it.
For example, and in a simplistic way, in a situation of complaint of delay in the delivery of an order, this technique can be applied as follows:
1. Identification of the problem – Survey of the complaint data, including deadlines, products and processors;
2. Iterative identification of the causes (the 5 whys) – Iterative, seek to deepen the reasons for the problem:
i. What is the reason for the delay? Because the products did not leave the factory at the planned time.
ii. What explains the output of the products at a later date? Because production orders are badly staggered.
iii. Why are production orders poorly scaled? Because the calculation of production hours always fails by default.
iv. Why is the calculation of production hours wrong? Because the software used is outdated.
v. Why is the software still being used? Because the head of the Department of Information Systems (S.I.) did not evaluate the implementation of an alternative software.
3. Root cause identification – The root cause of the above problem is the SI department’s perception that the currently used software package does not present any problems (for example, because there are no errors or bugs related to the software);
4. Identification of corrective actions – The head of the IS department should, together with the heads of other departments, regularly assess the functional requirements of the organization’s IT applications and present management with potential problems, capital gains and solutions to situations found;
5. Implementation of corrective actions – Establishment of biannual meetings between the directors of the different departments and the director of information technology and between this and the administration;
6. Implementation of control measures – Elaboration of documents for the registration of requirements and evaluation of solutions in a repository accessible to the administration and to the directors. These should be updated every six months, including the minutes of the meetings.
The flexibility and simplicity of this method allows its application in a simple and immediate way, allowing you to take a new approach to solving your organization’s problems right away.