What is Root Cause Analysis?

Root Cause Analysis, RCA for short is a method of problem solving in which the root cause of a problem is identified to solve it. RCA is based on the principle that a problem can be solved better by correcting or removing the root cause for it than by mere resolution of the symptoms. When a problem root is eliminated the chances of it recurring are removed almost completely too. Root cause analysis is typically an iterative process to be most effective and is a recognized tool for “continuous improvement” in any scenario.

Root Cause Analysis is done as a reaction to a problem or problems after they occur. But when practiced for a while it can become a pro-active method where by problems can be seen coming before they occur and thus can be prevented in time. Many tools, processes and varying philosophies go into the RCA methodology. The broad schools of RCA include:

  • Safety based – comes from analysis of accidents and standards in occupational safety and health
  • Production based – arises from quality control followed in industrial manufacturing
  • Process based – extension of production based RCA which encompasses business processes
  • Failure based – stems from failure analysis followed in the areas of engineering and maintenance
  • Systems based – confluence of all the previously mentioned RCA plus change management, risk management and system analysis ideas

Though there are so many schools of RCA they are all guided by some basic principles. Performance improvement can best be achieved by attacking root causes to problems, RCA should be carried out systematically and causes recorded with documented evidence, one problem can have more than one root cause, RCA should consider all the causal relationships known between the root causes and given problems and root cause analysis starts as a reactive method that eventually becomes pro-active.

Original Post