Effective Management Techniques: Episode 2 – Root Cause Analysis

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Effective Management Techniques: Episode 2 – Root Cause Analysis

Many of us heard or read about root cause analysis without really putting this technique into action. The root cause analysis is used whenever problems encountered. Either those problems: business growth issues, cash flow issues, system incidents, people performance related, or even personal issues.

5-Why’s Technique for Root Cause Analysis

One of the techniques used to reach roots is the 5-WHY’s method. Herein below an explanation of how to carry out a root-cause analysis with a real example. First of all, let us have a look on the simple chart of actions for the 5-WHY’s technique.

Root Cause Flowchart

The first level of WHY’s set the initial causes. Those initial causes can be constructed from expert judgement or picked from one of below common sets.

  • 3M’s and P – Methods, Materials, Machinery, and People
  • 4P’s – Policies, Procedures, People and Plant
  • 6M’s – Machine, Method, Materials, Measurement, Man and Mother Nature (Environment)
  • 8P’s – Price, Promotion, People, Processes, Place / Plant, Policies, Procedures & Product (or Service) (recommended for administration and service industry)
  • 4S’s – Surroundings, Suppliers, Systems, Skills (recommended for service industry)
  • Equipment, Process, People, Materials, Environment, and Management
  • 2P’s and T – People, Processes, Technology (suitable for services industry)

Putting 5-Why’s Technique at Action

Let us have an example of a problem that is repeated at IT services companies “A Behind Schedule Project“.

Step 1: Initial causes can be picked as People, Processes, Environment, and Technology

Fishbone step 1Step 2: Ask the first WHY. Why People would cause delays of project?. As a result of this question, the answer would be “low productivity of the project team”. For each resulting answer, ask again WHY this happens.

sample 5WHYs example

Step 3: Repeat the process on every answer on all branches (of causes) until you exhaust all five WHY’s and their answers.

Fishbone Final

Step 4: Group all final answers (the leaves at fish bone) to construct distinct list of causes. Then prioritize those root causes based on impact upon the problem at hand.

Weaknesses of 5-why

It is worth noting that as any other technique that has its own merits and issues, 5-why’s is based on personal opinion on what the causes are, and two people performing 5-why analysis on the same problem can come up with widely differing causes and completely different root causes. However, the issue is slightly negated as long as the person involved in the problem performs the analysis. If they do, then they should have enough expertise to perform an accurate analysis.

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