Root Cause Analysis and Problem Solving

Not many things in life are more frustrating than repeating the same problem over and over, knowing that the problem exists and that something should be done about it. It’s human nature to identify issues and think “There has to be a way to improve or even eliminate this issue”. This concept is simple, but not always easy. What I mean, is that knowing a problem exists and that something could be done to fix it, is a very simple concept, but far too often we get in our own way. “I’m too busy to deal with that right now”, or “Maybe someone else is figuring this out already”, or worst of all “I don’t want to make a suggestion out of fear that people will think my idea is stupid”. These are common examples of reasons not to solve the problems we face. The thought of undertaking the task of problem solving can seem daunting. This is why problem solving is simple, but not always easy. The payoff for correctly solving an issue however, is always rewarding.

Reducing the 7 common problematic wastes: transportation of materials, motion of operators, waiting, excess inventory, over production, over-processing, defects, translates into increased employee morale and efficiencies, and directly affects revenue. The more time you spend performing value added processes, the more cash flow you will generate as a company. For these reasons, eliminating wastes in non value added processes is integral to growing and succeeding as a business, and standing out from the rest of the pack. Essentially, work smarter not harder.

Chances are that you already perform some sort of problem solving, and you don’t even realize it. Problem solving must be done with facts. Data driven root cause analysis will provide the strongest, longest lasting solutions. Following the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, and Act) cycle will ensure the root of a problem is identified, resolved, and prevented from recurring. Make sure to focus on a specific problem, don’t try to solve world hunger.  

7 steps to PDCA problem solving: 





1. Identify the problem

What is the real problem? Be specific.

Bad Example: Faulty part

Good Example: Pump fitting is leaking

2. Observe the problem

Watch and record the problem when it occurs.

3. Analyze the problem and develop a solution

What is the current situation? What is the ideal situation? Ask why up to 5 times to get to the root cause. Develop a solution to permanently resolve the issue.


4. Implement the problem solution

Put the solution into action.


5. Check the results

After implementing the solution, verify the results are satisfactory. If not, repeat steps 2- 4.


6. Standardize the results

Once the ideal state has been achieved, write a standard so that the problem doesn’t repeat itself in the future.

7. Follow up with measurable indicators

After a predetermined time period (variable depending on each situation), using applicable measurable, check that the solution is still effective.

 Now that you have an idea of the steps required to successfully and permanently solve a recurring problem, let’s look at a tool that we use at Big Shot to document our Root Cause Analysis. Our RCA tool is set up to be a one page document that clearly displays the Theme/Background of the problem, the current conditions, our goals and targets by the end of the charter, and analysis on what the root of the problem is, proposed countermeasures to the issue, a plan to implement the solution(s), and a followup to see if further actions are required. 

Download the RCA Form HERE

Download the RCA Instructional Example HERE

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