Project Management

In defense of root cause analysis

From the Manifesting Business Agility Blog
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In defense of root cause analysis

First, let me acknowledge that root cause analysis (RCA) is often misused. It is not intended to lay blame. This use is rooted in a lack of understanding of systems thinking as espoused by Edwards Deming. Deming proposed the theory that most errors are due to the system while some are due to special causes that happen infrequently

Doing RCA on special causes is counter-productive. However, RCA on causes due to the system are worthwhile. Lean management is based on this idea - improve the system, stop blaming people

A 2nd misuse of RCA is actually believing there is one cause & that the point of RCA is to get to it. This may work in manufacturing where limiting variation is a goal. In knowledge work there are too many variables to limit. While RCA may get you to a root cause, ii is more likely to provide a deeper understanding while leading to several potential root causes

The challenge I have w/those dismissing RCA off the cuff is they bring up examples of it being misused while ignoring cases where it has proven useful. Go here to see an example where by using "5-whys" an organization increased the productivity of a 100 person dev team by 20% while also greatly improving the quality of their product in a matter of 3-4 hours


Posted on: May 23, 2021 12:21 PM | Permalink

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