Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had the kind of job where everything went great and everyone told us how awesome we are all the time? Unfortunately, that’s not how life is. We’re often faced with a variety of speed bumps along the road to success. These speed bumps can be flaws in a business process, a quality defect, an inefficient manufacturing or administrative process, or just about any other kind of problem.

Often when we hit these speed bumps we hear the phrase, “Let’s get to the root cause of this problem!” I love it when I hear that phrase. It means someone in authority has bought into finding what caused the problem rather than just treating a symptom. However, that phrase also makes me cringe just a bit.

Why does this cause me to cringe? It may be somewhat trivial to some, but it’s always been a big deal to me. I cringe at the sound of “root cause” because “root cause” is singular. ONE root cause. Far too often we work hard to define the problem, perform a root cause analysis (using the many tools that you can learn about in the Utah Lean Six Sigma Training Center Green Belt course), and then celebrate as we’ve done ourselves the grave disservice of identifying one single, sad, lonely, little cause.

Whether you’re using an Ishikawa (Fishbone) diagram, Five Whys, Pareto charts, FMEA, or any other tool, always be sure to ask yourself these questions: Is that it? Could there be more?

Chances are the answer to those two questions are no to the former and yes to the latter. In the example shown below you can see that the continuous improvement team found multiple causes a couple times when they asked why something happened. Because of their ability to not get fixated on just one cause they were able to identify and eliminate three completely separate causes to their delivery issues! Had they not eliminated all three causes, chances are the quality defects would have continued to plague them and their customers.

Keep coming back for more short messages from Utah Lean Six Sigma Training Center!

Root Cause Analysis