Root Cause Analysis Methods - Invensis Learning
Root Cause Analysis Methods - Invensis Learning

A root cause analysis can help organizations stay ahead of any potential damages or harm in the future and help solve prevalent problems in the company. It is a widely used tool in risk management practices, and it is applicable and necessary for enterprises across all industries and of all sizes. So which type of root cause analysis method is the best one to use?

This article discusses what a root cause analysis is, its benefits, and the most common ways and methods used by organizations to conduct their root cause analysis.

What Is Root Cause Analysis?

To break it down into smaller segments, a root cause analysis has three main elements. These are:

  • Identifying the problem
  • Analyzing the problem
  • Identifying the underlying cause of the problem

When there is an issue that affects the productivity and level of quality of a company’s services, it is considered to be a problem and a threat to the organization. More often than not, the issue comes from a bigger underlying problem that has not been addressed by the relevant teams, and the problem that has surfaced is nothing more than a symptom.

A root cause analysis takes the noticeable symptom, inspects it, and analyzes it to come up with the main root cause of the issue. This helps eliminate the chances of the problem recurring and improves overall processes within the organization.

Benefits Of Root Cause Analysis

A root cause analysis helps organizations manage their risks by eliminating any problems they might be facing. It is also a good preventative measure that companies can use to safeguard themselves from possible threats in the future. A root cause analysis has a lot of benefits that companies can experience, such as:

  • Saving financial resources in the long run
  • Making processes more efficient
  • Saving time for team members
  • Eliminating recurrence of the problem
  • Improving communication within the organization and teams
  • Long term financial gains 
  • Improving overall performance 
  • Preventing problems and defects
  • Increase profits for the company
  • Track the investigation of all issues faced by the company
  • Reducing risks
  • Taking a proactive approach to problem-solving instead of a reactive approach
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Root Analysis Methods

There are many techniques and methods that are used by organizations to conduct root cause analysis. The method they use is often dependent on the type of processes and methodologies the organization adheres to, the kind of issue it is, and the complexity and severity of the problem. Some of the most widely used ways of conducting a root cause analysis are:

  • Pareto Chart
  • Fishbone Diagram
  • The 5 Whys Method
  • Change Analysis 
  • Barrier Analysis
  • Fault Tree Analysis

Let us explore each of these root cause analysis methods in brief.

Pareto Chart

A Pareto Chart is one of the most commonly used methods for conducting a root cause analysis. It is a highly effective method that is mainly used when the problem statement has been identified by the team members or the investigation team and possible causes for the problem. Listed below are some of the factors that require a Pareto Chart to conduct a root cause analysis:

  • When the list of problems is quite high, and along with it the list of possible causes for the problem, so the investigative team is focused on finding the most significant ones
  • If the root cause analysis is being conducted for solving problems in processes
  • If the root cause analysis is being conducted due to the frequency of the problem
  • If the information collected about the problems and causes needs to be conveyed to the stakeholders
  • If the possible causes of the problem are far-reaching and need to be made more specific

Fishbone Diagram

The Fishbone Diagram is also known as the cause and effect diagram or the Ishikawa diagram. This diagram is used to assess the quality of a product or a process in the company. This diagram can also be used in the planning stage of any strategy as it assists the brainstorming process. A Fishbone diagram is used to find possible causes for a problem or improve team members’ thinking processes and enhance their creative drive.

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The 5 Whys Method 

The 5 Whys method is another extremely popular method used by companies to find the root cause of a problem. The reason for its popularity is because it can be applied to virtually any problem across any field in any setting. The concept of the 5 Whys method is relatively simple.

The first step is to agree on a final problem statement that needs to be addressed. Then the investigative team just asks and answers a series of Why questions to understand the reason the problem is occurring. This way, they can easily determine the main reason for the problem or its root cause.

The 5 Whys method should be regularly applied to all the processes in an organization for continuous improvement.

Change Analysis

The change analysis method for finding the root cause is mainly focused on finding and analyzing the changes or deviations that have been made in the process that could be causing the problem. This helps with finding the possible causes of a problem. 

A comparison is made with the processes, somewhat like a before and after, to understand what the differences are in a process. To understand what the differences are, questions regarding the changes are asked. These questions are focused on what the changes are, where the changes have been made, when the changes were made, and to what extent the changes have affected the process.

Once the differences have been figured out, the investigative team uses them as possible causes for the problem. These causes are then listed out and analyzed to find the actual root cause of the problem.

Barrier Analysis

Organizations typically use the barrier analysis method to understand why a problem is occurring and what measures they can take to prevent it from happening again. The main aspect of a barrier analysis is to improve the safety measures at the company. 

A Barrier Analysis’s main concept is to prevent a problem from recurring by placing ‘barriers’ to monitor and control all hazards in an organization. It involves three main elements:

  • The target that can be affected by the threat or hazard
  • The main threat or hazard
  • The barrier in place to protect the target
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Fault Tree Analysis

The fault tree analysis method is used to break down a problem and strip it layer by layer to find the root cause. If there is a problem X at the highest level in a fault tree analysis, it gets evaluated at each layer until they reach the lowest possible level where the problem is occurring. This helps in identifying the root cause of the problem. It is a straightforward hierarchy-based approach to problem-solving.

Final Thoughts

A root cause analysis is necessary for the continuous improvement of operations in any organization. It is a fundamental step in risk management and should be an essential step in enterprises across all industries. To execute efficient root cause analysis, professionals trained in risk management are often required so that organizations can deduce the most accurate results and reap the maximum amount of benefit from the activity.

There are many certifications available for working professionals in root cause analysis and general risk management processes, which can increase their scope of knowledge and gain expertise in the field. Some of the related training courses are:

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Diego Rodriguez works as a Six Sigma Black Belt professional for a leading manufacturing company. He possesses ample experience in various aspects of quality management, such as Lean, Six Sigma, Root Cause Analysis, Design Thinking, and more. His primary focus is to conduct tests and monitor the production phase and also responsible for sorting out the items that fail to meet the quality standards. Diego’s extensive work in the field has resulted in being an honorary member of quality associations globally. His areas of research include knowledge management, quality control, process design, strategic planning, and organizational performance improvement.


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