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Root Cause Analysis

Follow These Steps to Conduct a Root Cause Analysis

root cause analysis

When coming up with a standardized approach to continuous process improvement, root cause analysis is a critical component. It seeks to identify the problem, its source and then fix it once and for all so it never pops up again. Ultimately, this improves the quality of the process’s outputs. When it comes to root cause analysis, time is of the essence. Action needs to be taken the moment the problem is identified before it becomes a really big and costly issue. 

While there is no one way to conduct a root cause analysis, here are seven steps that you can follow to ensure that it is done properly:

1. Identify and Sort the Problems

All businesses experience issues in one form or the other, but what matters is how they are handled. To begin with, it is essential to identify the problems and then sort them in order of severity so the most urgent ones can be tackled first.

2. Define the Problem

For the problem chosen to be solved first, it needs to be clearly and concisely defined, with emphasis on its solvability. There’s no point trying to tackle problems that have no discernible solution at the moment.

3. Identify Possible Causes

A team should be gathered for a brainstorming session. This is where the team can utilize one of Six Sigma’s strategies for root cause analysis: the five whys. The strategy involves asking the question “Why?” five times in order to get to the underlying causes of the problem. Five is not a hard rule but a rule of thumb – the question can be asked as little or as many times as needed.

Then the team will discuss and select the possible ways to fix the problem. It is important to always pay attention to the root causes in order to come up with an effective solution.

4. Make Improvements

At this stage all the improvements should be implemented and communicated to everyone involved – don’t leave anyone out. Clearly communicating things like the deadlines, deliverables, reasons and benefits can go a long way towards making continuous improvement stick.

5. Review the Improvements

Review the improvements that were made and make amendments where necessary. If the problem persists, don’t be afraid to go back to step number 3.

6. Standardize the Procedures

Create documents that outline what procedures need to be standardized and be sure to share them with everyone involved. Also, ask yourselves if these procedures are applicable elsewhere in the organization (HR? Customer service? Marketing?).

7. Review and Control the New Procedures

Check on a regular basis to ensure that the standardized procedures are effectively rectifying the problem. Also, make sure that people in the organization are following them by reviewing the procedures every 3-6 months.


Conducting root cause analysis is not an extremely complicated process. However, if done properly, it can produce benefits that can make the organization competitive and profitable. There is no one way to conduct, but the above-mentioned seven steps can help you do it if they are in line with the way your organization operates. Otherwise, they can be adjusted to suit your organization.

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