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How do you conduct RCA?

Admin 29-May-2019

Speaking as on today, there is one thing I know for sure that we’ll never run short of supply “Problems”.

This applies to personal as well as Professional life. More often than not, we solve these problems NOT to eliminate the root cause, but to achieve faster results. This makes the situation worse as the problem still remains and reappears in a different shape and form asking for a re-work.  Hence, it is imperative that we reach the root cause of the problem before devising a solution. There comes the need of an RCA.

There are numerous methods to perform Root Cause Analysis (RCA), but hardly those are practiced conscientiously. RCA programs require organization wide efforts to make it a success, hence it should be a part of continuous improvement plan of any organization. To make it simple, I’ve enumerated below a 5 steps method to do RCA. A couple of points to be noted before we commence with RCA:-

  1. Topics/Cases for RCA should be prioritized basis the impact and urgency.
  2. Form a Team to perform RCA and define role of team members. Ensure that we have representative from each department that has stake in the problem.

Once we have accomplished above, begin with the following steps:

Step 1   Define the problem:

Gather more information about the problem. Use following questions:

What is the problem? –Is it an internal defect, an escalation, complaint etc.

Where did it occur? Which specific area/process the problem belongs to?

When did the problem occur first time?-   Is there a history of similar problem?  Was there an action plan to solve for this?

Who reported the problem? – How did you come to know about the problem. Did you receive an escalation from client? Is it a system defect reported internally?

What is the impact of problem- Find out if the impact is severe or mild.

The above questions will help you understand the problem in detail and narrow it down for ease of understanding.

Note: Well defined problems take lesser efforts in problem solving than the poorly defined problems.

Step2- Create a Process Map

Draw an end to end process map/flow chart. If multiple departments/teams are involved create a cross functional Process Map and locate the area in Process map where “defect” occurred. This will help you understand the Input and Output of the process and how they can contribute to the problem creation.

Just so you know,  Process map is a very powerful tool as it helps identify the input and output of a process along with the flow of information. This is how a High level (Basic) process map looks like:

Step3- Identify and validate possible Causes

Identify all parties that have interest in the process and do a brainstorming session. You can include subject matter expert (SMEs), Process owners, processor etc. Agenda is to identify possible causes of the defect reported. You can use following tools for brainstorming:

Process map:

Remember the process map we created in step 2. This will come handy in this session to identify the “failure points” in the process.

Focus on Process and not on People here. Question the Process design and identify where the process is breaking.

Fishbone tool:

Ishikawa diagrams (also called fish bone diagrams, are causal diagrams created by Kaoru Ishikawa (1968) that show the causes of a specific. Each cause or reason for imperfection is a source of variation. Causes are usually grouped into major categories to identify these sources of variation. The categories typically include

  • People: Anyone involved with the process
  • Methods: How the process is performed and the specific requirements for doing it, such as policies, procedures, rules, regulations and laws
  • Machines: Any equipment, computers, tools, etc. required to accomplish the job
  • Materials: Raw materials, parts, pens, paper, etc. used to produce the final product
  • Measurements: Data generated from the process that are used to evaluate its quality
  • Environment: The conditions, such as location, time, temperature, and culture in which the process operates.

Once you have identified the “Possible” causes of the problem, note them down  on a paper.  Remember, we have only identified possible causes so far and not the actual causes. Next task is to validate the possible causes with evidence. This is an integral part of the RCA process as we don’t want to squander away our resources in solving for a wrong cause.  Let me clarify it with an example,

Let’s say, your team has identified “Low” typing speed as a possible cause of high” Handling time” in a document processing department. However, when you ran a typing speed test of the document processing team, none of them flunked. In this case, the “Possible” cause stands void as it couldn’t be validated with evidence.

Similarly, all possible causes have to go through validation test. “Possible” causes that you’re able to validate with evidence now called “Vital Causes”.

Step 4- Identify Root causes

This step entails drilling of Vital causes to reach root cause. 5 Why tool comes in handy in this step. This is a very simple tool which is used to identify root cause. By repeatedly asking the question “Why” (five is a good rule of thumb), you can peel away the layers of symptoms which can lead to the root cause of a problem.

Below template will help you do 5 why analysis:-

Things to keep in mind:

  1. Do not move to next question unless the previous one is validated with evidence.
  2. It’s not necessary that the root cause is identified at 5th Why only. Five is just a good rule of thumb.
  3. Need to be very diligent when to stop asking “Why”. Just ensure that the root cause you have identified is actionable. If it’s not , then you’ve stopped at wrong Why.
  4. Appreciate all types of questions from participants, but make sure the group deliberates on “Right” questions only.  Don’t put RIGHT answer to a WRONG question.
  5. There can be multiple root causes of a single problem

Step 5- Identify Solutions

RCA  doesn’t end at identification of Root cause. Once the Root causes are identified, do brainstorming session(s) with team to identify possible solutions. You can use techniques like Six thinking hats, Scamper etc to generate creative ideas. Build solution implementation plan and categorize them as below:

  1. Long term solutions:

This category of solutions are thought from long term implementation perspective to ensure the problem doesn’t resurface again. Generally, these solutions demand technology changes that come with high cost and time, hence proposed for long term.

  1. Short term:

This category of solutions are thought from short term implementation perspective to ensure an immediate relief. This involves a quick change in the procedure, process guidelines, stopping a leakage. etc. You may use the below table for solution implementation plan:

 

Hope it helps!

Happy reading!

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