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Why problems occur – An introduction to Root Cause Analysis.

In last month’s article I put forward that “Respect for People,” one of the key pillars in any Lean organisation, was more than being polite and courteous. It was in fact involving your team in the business by giving them an opportunity or even actively encouraging them to solve their problems. In this newsletter, I will briefly describe some of the different problem solving techniques you can use to more effectively coach your people and build trust and enhance how you display “Respect for People”.

We face work problems every day and unfortunately we seldom put in enough effort to find the root cause, preventing their reoccurrence. Because of our time pressures and our desire to keep our processes going, we do only enough to get the process going again, or in Lean terms place a Band-Aid on the problem. If we were to get to the root cause and solve it correctly, then over time the performance of the organisation continues to improve relative to its peers (if all other things are equal) as you are not re-solving problems that occurred last week, month or year etc.  In extreme cases of poor problem solving we develop work arounds, increasing the amount of time required to perform a process, inviting TIM WOODS back into our business.

The severity of the problem and its consequences will determine what methodology we adopt.  More effort must be put in to solving a problem if there is significant risk to life, machinery, product or property.  In these sorts of cases we would try to find and eliminate the root cause.

Root Cause Analysis is a tool designed to help identify not only what and how an event occurred, but also why it happened.  Understanding why an event or failure occurred is the key to developing effective corrective recommendations.

Root Cause Analysis often involves the following 8 steps:

1.       Problem Identification 2.       Problem Understanding
3.       Problem Cause Brainstorming 4.       Problem Cause Data Collection
5.       Problem Cause Data Analysis 6.       Root Cause Identification
7.       Problem elimination 8.       Solution Implementation


Another common problem solving technique is the 5 Why’s. This is where you ask “Why is the problem happening?”  Once you get the answer you ask Why again and you repeat this until you get to the Root Cause which is typically revelled within the 5 iterations.  This is great for coaching as it can be undertaken anywhere and anytime, and is a good tool to get your team to think more broadly about the problem they face. As an example:

Why was the order not shipped? The packer couldn’t find all the items
Why couldn’t the packer find the items? There was no structure in the store
Why was there no structure in the store? There is no store layout design
Root Cause: The organistion does not understand the benefits of workplace organisation and waste elimination


If you require any assistance eliminating any reoccurring or new problems, our expert Business Advisors are only to willing to help.  They will coach and if necessary train you on a whole range of problem solving techniques which will allow you to improve your overall business performance and train your team, driving your performance forward.  Contact Workplace Partners on 1300 116 400 to get the support you need.

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