Root cause analysis (RCA) is a method of problem solving used for identifying the root causes of faults or problems in any process or area of work.

RCA is a popular and often-used technique that helps people answer the question of why the problem occurred in the first place. It helps to identify the origin of a problem using a specific set of steps, with associated tools, to find the primary cause of the problem, so that you can:

-Determine what has happened.

-Determine why it happened.

– Figure out what to do, so as to reduce the likelihood that it will happen again.

In simpler terms, Root cause analysis is an approach for identifying the underlying causes of an incident so that the most effective solutions can be identified and implemented.

If we only fix the symptoms of the problem, which we see on the surface like the weeds, the problem will almost certainly return, and need fixing over, and over again. But, if we look deeper to figure out what is actually causing the problem, which are like roots of the weeds below the surface, we can fix the underlying systems and processes so that it goes away forever.

The most common three basic types of root causes usually found can be categorized as :-

-Physical causes – Tangible, material items failed in some way (for example, a car’s brakes stopped working).

-Human causes – People did something wrong, or did not do something that was needed. Human causes typically lead to physical causes (for example, no one filled the brake fluid, which led to the brakes failing).

-Organizational causes – A system, process, or policy that people use to make decisions or do their work is faulty (for example, no one person was responsible for vehicle maintenance, and everyone assumed someone else had filled the brake fluid).

The Root Cause Analysis Process

RCA has four identifiable steps :-

1) Defining the Problem :

– What do you see happening?

– What are the specific symptoms?

2) Collecting all the relevant data :

– What proof do you have that the problem exists?

– How long has the problem existed?

– What is the impact of the problem?

We need to analyze a situation fully before you can move on to look at factors that contributed to the problem. To maximize the effectiveness of your RCA, get together everyone – experts and front-line staff – who understands the situation. People who are most familiar with the problem can help lead you to a better understanding of the issues.

3) Identifying possible Causal Factors :

– What sequence of events leads to the problem?

– What conditions allow the problem to occur?

– What other problems surround the occurrence of the central problem?

During this stage, identify as many causal factors as possible. Too often, people identify one or two factors and then stop, but that is not sufficient to simply treat the most obvious causes. we might have to dig deeper.

4) Identifying the Root Causes of the problems :

Several techniques have been recognized to identify the root causes generally. Some of the 3 most popular techniques used are :-

A) 5-Why Technique :-

The five why is a question asking technique used to explore the effects underlying a particular problem. This technique is used to get the root of what has caused the issue in a single instance. For each answer given, a further “why” question is asked. Every issue comes with its own background and has a different theory attached to its occurrence. The RCA helps in getting the exact reason of the problem. There is no format of framing the questions but how well the questions are framed definitely help in getting the pertinent cause of the problem.

Limitations :- The tendency of investigators to stop at symptoms rather than going on to lower level root causes. Lack of knowledge of the people involved in finding the root cause.

B) Tabular Method Technique :-


In this technique, a checklist or table of actions related to the current running processes in any organization is prepared. In case of failure, the master check list is referred to find any deviation.  But his process is limited for simple and direct actions.

Action 1 Success
Action 2 Failed
Action 3 Success


Sub-Activity1 Success
Sub-Activity2 Failed

C) Fishbone Technique /Diagram :-

This technique is also known as the Ishikawa Diagram or the Fishbone Diagram or the Cause-and-Effect

Diagram. This Ishikawa/Fishbone technique identifies 5 key areas which occur repeatedly in either type of analysis:

1.People :-

– For Example, people are lacking enough training on the process.

– People are not following proper work timings (duration etc), lack of unity /understanding / co-ordination between the staff of various teams in the organization etc

  1. Processes :-
  • The “Requirements Gathering” process is poorly documented.
  • There is no Requirements Configuration management.
  • There is no penalty for Scope Creep etc
  1. Machines :-

-Lack of required or suitable machines or Infrastructure

– The Machines being used in current process are outdated or outdated

– The Machines need updations or some variations etc

  1. Materials :-

– The Materials being used in the current process are Second Grade or of low quality.

–  Discrepancies in the cost & Transportation of the material being used etc.

  1. Environment:-

– Suitable environment not existing for current process and needs to be replaced etc.


Above described factors are depicted as Fish-bone Diagram below :-



5) Recommend and Implement Solutions :

– What can you do to prevent the problem from happening again?

– How will the solution be implemented?

–  What are the risks of implementing the solution?

Analyze the cause-and-effect process and identify the changes needed for various systems. Plan ahead to predict the effects of our solution. This way, we can spot potential failures before they happen.






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