ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS: Method, Examples, Tools & Template

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It is safe to link root cause analysis to the more general area of total quality management (TQM). Root cause analysis, problem-solving, and problem analysis are ways that TQM has evolved. The root causes analysis method addresses the root causes of an event that led to an undesirable outcome and corrective measures. can be developed using a structured, assisted team approach. Hence, using the RCA procedure, you can determine the process and system flaws that contributed to the occurrence and how to avoid them in the future. It is essential for continuous improvement and a more comprehensive problem-solving approach. Root cause analysis is therefore one of the fundamental pillars of an organization’s ongoing improvement efforts. With an example, we also discuss cause root analysis tools, methods, and templates.

Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis (RCA) is the process of determining the underlying factors that contribute to a problem. RCA bases its premise on the idea that systematic prevention and root-cause analysis yield superior results than spot-treating symptoms and putting out flames. You can carry out a root cause analysis to find the underlying reasons for an occurrence or trend, using a variety of ideas, techniques, and methodologies. Beyond simple cause and effect, RCA can identify the processes or systems that failed or initially sparked a problem.

Importance of Root Cause Analysis

The goal of root cause analyses is to determine what problems an organization must solve to improve its operations and reach its objectives. So, it is essential to get to the bottom of a problem to develop better solutions.

Businesses are less likely to have the same or similar problems and events happen again if they do root cause analyses and use the right solution. By doing this, businesses can make it less likely that an accident will hurt workers, the community, or the environment. Hence, businesses can save money on things like business interruption, extra regulatory fees, audits, and emergency response.

It’s also important to note that public trust can be earned when organizations prioritize prevention over the treatment of symptoms alone. An incident-free history can be used as a recruiting and retention tool, strengthening the safety culture.

Types of Root Causes

There are three fundamental categories of root causes that may affect a situation, including:

  • Physical Causes: these may result from issues with any system’s physical parts, such as hardware failure and equipment malfunction.
  • Human Causes: Human error, brought on by a lack of knowledge and ability to complete a task, is possible.
  • Organizational Causes: This may occur when businesses employ flawed or insufficient systems or procedures, which can lead to instances when complete instructions are given, poor decisions are made, and people and property are handled properly.

Root Cause Analysis Methods

The identification of the root causes of a problem or incident. Root cause analysis uses a variety of methods and strategies, just like the broader RCA process itself.

#1. Change Analysis

This RCA method, sometimes referred to as change impact analysis, analyzes a departure from the norm in order to pinpoint the underlying reason for the difference. It examines adjustments made to personnel, tools, facilities, and information, as well as other contributing elements that may have impacted system performance.

#2. Causal Factor Analysis

This strategy, an RCA method also known as causal factor tree analysis, entails jotting down and graphically illustrating each of the conditions and actions (or causal factors) that lead to a certain problem event.

#3. Event Analysis

This RCA technique, which is occasionally used with causal factor analysis, entails swift evidence collecting to build a timeline for the events and circumstances that led up to a problem event. Teams can then identify the contributing and causative elements. Events like explosions are frequently the subject of event analysis.

#4. Barrier Analysis

Barrier analysis is an RCA method that is frequently used in safety events. It is based on the idea that problems may have been identified and avoided if the right barriers had been in place. A barrier analysis examines the many consequences brought on by certain dangers and looks into why the barrier (or control) was unable to stop the accident.

#5. ”5 Whys” Analysis

The 5 Whys Analysis, made popular in the 1970s by Toyota, is an RCA method that enables users to quickly identify the problem’s root cause by asking “Why?” and “What led to the issue?” as many as five times.

#6. Fishbone Ishikawa Diagram

Commonly known as the cause-and-effect diagram, the Ishikawa diagram is an RCA analysis tool that looks at an event’s causes that lead to a problem. The “fishbone diagram,” named for the way it organizes a vast number of causes into related sub-categories, is shaped like the skeleton of a fish. This way of putting things together helps figure out which root causes are most likely to be the main problems.

#7. Kepner-Tregoe’s Root Cause Analysis 

The four stages of problem-solving in this RCA model—situation analysis, problem analysis, solution analysis, and potential problem analysis—are sometimes referred to as the KT approach and entail separating problems from decisions.

#8. Pareto Analysis

The Pareto analysis approach chooses a solution that offers the greatest benefit and is named after the Pareto principle, which states that 80% of problems originate from 20% of causes.

Because they pinpoint the underlying causes of an issue and provide a list of potential remedial measures, some of these methodologies and procedures are also referred to as “tree” diagrams or analyses. For instance, “change tree analysis” is another name for “change analysis” because you may depict the causes and effects of a change using a tree diagram.

What Are the Four Steps in a Root Cause Analysis?

The four steps in a typical root cause analysis

  • Identify Possible Causal Factors
  • Find the root of the problem
  • Identify Communication Issues.
  • Prioritize the challenges in communication.

What Root Cause Analysis for Dummies?

A tool called root cause analysis (RCA) can be used to determine what, how, and why an event happened so that preventative measures can be done in the future. RCA can also be used to pinpoint areas that need systemic change.

What Are the 6 PS of Root Cause Analysis?

Causes are generally categorized into six broad groups, known as the 6 Ps.

  • People
  • Process
  • Program
  • Product
  • Policy
  • Place

Root Cause Analysis Tools

Root cause analysis (RCA) is a procedure for locating the underlying causes of issues and a methodical approach to addressing them. The foundation of root cause analysis is the belief that good management should discover a means to stop issues before they spread throughout an entire organization and interfere with its operations.

One of the most important aspects of quality management’s problem-solving process is root cause analysis. Since root cause analysis is a crucial part of the define, measure, analyze, improve, and control (DMAIC) phase, it is a crucial component of the Six Sigma approach.

The six main root cause analysis tools are applied during the process of determining a problem’s root causes.

#1. Pareto Chart

A Pareto chart is a bar graph in which the bars are ordered from most often to least often, reading from left to right. The severity or frequency of the issues is represented by the height of the bars. The Pareto chart guides the quality improvement group’s attention to the most consequential areas for change. Root cause analysis is a crucial step in the Six Sigma process that uses the Pareto chart to identify issues and potential solutions. You can use steps X, Y, and Z to make a Pareto chart.

#2. The 5 Whys

The 5 Whys method asks a series of questions to uncover a problem’s underlying causes. It is basically intended that each time you ask “why,” the response you provide serves as the basis for the subsequent “why” questions until the problem’s root causes are identified. For issues where you don’t need complex data, use the 5 Whys easy tool. This approach is applicable in Six Sigma to thoroughly examine the outcomes of a Pareto chart.

#3. Scatter Plot Diagram

This is a two-dimensional graph of a set of data. To find their link, the scatter diagram graphs pairs of numerical data with one variable on each axis. Six Sigma makes extensive use of it since it can display nonlinear relationships between variables. In Six Sigma, scatter charts are a common technique for problem analysis. In addition, scatter plots display the relationships between the variables.

There are generally three sorts of correlation: positive, negative, and no correlation. Correlation is the term used to describe this relationship. In Six Sigma, a scatter plot will show if there is a positive, negative, or no association between a problem and a cause. This thus makes it easier for quality teams to determine which fictitious cause has the biggest impact on an issue and which one you need to fix first.

#4. Fault Tree Analysis (FTA)

One of the more beneficial tools in Lean Six Sigma problem investigations is fault tree analysis (FTA), which is a graphical tool. FTA investigates the reasons for system-level errors. While risks are ranked using a fault tree analysis, which enables the greatest risks to be addressed first. It essentially employs a top-down methodology to detect the component-level failures (basic event) that lead to the system-level failure (top event) by combining a sequence of lower-level events using boolean logic. Fault tree analysis aids the team in concentrating on the most crucial input variables to the crucial output variables in a given process. Most especially when used in conjunction with other Lean Six Sigma methods. To determine the component-level failures that lead to system-level failure, FTA uses a top-down methodology.

#5. Fishbone Diagram

An Ishikawa or cause-and-effect diagram (fishbone diagram) classifies potential causes that stem from the original issue. Furthermore, each category in a fishbone diagram may have several additional sub-causes. This cause-and-effect analysis tool that individuals are most frequently using in Six Sigma is the fishbone diagram. In any Six Sigma project, cause-and-effect analysis is one of the most important steps.

#6. Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) 

FMEA is a technique used to investigate probable flaws or failures during the process and product design. FMEA provides project teams with a tool in Six Sigma to forecast the most likely failures that might have an impact on the consumers. The Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is used to evaluate data as part of the Six Sigma DMAIC cycle, and it aids in determining the potential consequences of process failures.

What Are the 5 Whys of RCA?

The 5 Whys technique is a method for finding solutions to problems that involve repeatedly asking “why?” five times in a row. Every time you inquire as to why a problem occurred, the answer you provide serves as the basis for your subsequent inquiry, which forces you to delve further and further into the root of the problem.

Using the five whys method, your team can concentrate on identifying any issue’s underlying causes. Instead of placing blame on others, it encourages each team member to contribute suggestions for ongoing improvement. It thus gives your team the assurance that it can fix any issue and stop the procedure from failing repeatedly.

However, this method of making informed decisions entails investigating the cause-and-effect connections that underlie a particular issue. The 5 Whys process focuses on countermeasures that aim to prevent the issue from happening again, rather than developing a solution that only addresses a specific symptom.

What Is the First Step of Rca?

  • Define the Problem

It involves examining the details of what is taking place and learning the precise symptoms of the issue.

Root Cause Analysis Example

Generally, the goal of root cause analysis, as the name suggests, is to locate the reason for an issue and find a solution to it. This allows you to address the problem at its source, where the underlying cause is present, rather than just treating its symptoms.

A broken ankle, for example, hurts a lot, and drugs won’t fix the ankles; you’ll need a different kind of treatment to promote a healthy healing process. In this illustration, a fractured ankle is an issue, ankle discomfort is the symptom, and damaged bones are the underlying cause. Hence, the discomfort won’t be relieved till the bones are repaired.

This particular illustration only relates to physical health, but what about work? The distinction between addressing a condition’s symptoms and treating them in healthcare is straightforward. What about a challenge at work, though?

It might not be a good idea to only treat the symptoms and think the issue is solved. You need to stop and think about whether there is a more significant and urgent reason—a deeper issue that needs to be fixed there. If you merely address the symptoms, it will only be a matter of time before additional cracks develop and the entire structure collapses. 

Nevertheless, if you dig deep to identify the true source of the issue, you can address the underlying systems and procedures to make it permanently disappear.


Root cause analysis assists companies in identifying the root cause of issues, which helps prevent recurring issues from happening. Even though root cause analysis is straightforward, it is not always simple. It takes a lot of data and analysis to analyze a large problem or improve an embedded process. Hence you need the best tools t your disposal.

Root cause analysis tools are crucial for discovering faults and their primary causes. The organization can find a long-lasting solution by determining the root cause. And hence reducing or preventing the likelihood of a future recurrence. Furthermore, RCA is crucial for creating a reasoned strategy for problem-solving.


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