A root cause analysis (RCA) is normally conducted to identify the primary source of a given problem or set of problems. It can be used to examine why the vision at the beginning of a project is different from the current situation. Therefore, it plays a big role in identifying the challenges that should be addressed to bring the vision to reality.
The root cause analysis is usually done by a small, focused team of individuals. In most cases, this is the same team that conducts situation analysis. It can be done as part of a stakeholder workshop or during extra discussions with stakeholders.
After everything is said and done, including identifying the primary sources of different problems, the team involved in conducting root cause analysis must prepare a report. In this article, we look at some of the steps that should guide you in writing a report once you have performed the root cause analysis.
Let’s take a look at these!
1. Have an Introduction
Every report must have an introduction, which normally details what it is all about and some key information that the intended audience should know before they dive right into it. You do not have to include lots of information in the introductory part, although it needs to be sufficient.
Ensure that you divide the introduction into parts, with the first one being the report’s purpose. This should identify the overall purpose of the document and the intended audience, be it the stakeholders or team members.
The next part should identify the scope of the document. In a nutshell, answer questions like what the document covers. Your document will also contain acronyms and abbreviations, which the intended audience should know before reading the report. Therefore, the next section after the scope should offer definitions of any acronym or abbreviation used in the report.
The fourth section of your introduction should focus on the references. This covers all the documents related to the products that already exist. Always expect to draw from other documents when preparing a root cause analysis report, or any report for that matter.
The fifth and last section of the introductory part of your report should capture the standards. Here, you are expected to mention and identify all the internal and external standards to be followed when developing the system.
It should also have all the external standards requested by the customer. You should expect corresponding internal standards when working on your report. To correctly solve this, make sure that you mention why you chose not to use these standards.
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2. Describe the Event
Once you have written the introduction and sufficiently recorded everything that the audience needs to know regarding the report, it is time to describe the event that the report attempts to analyze. Remember, root course analyses are done following different events.
While describing the event, make sure that you provide a clear and precise description of the problem that drove the team to conduct the particular root cause analysis. By clear and precise, we mean that you should indicate the date of occurrence, time and a detailed description.
Most of these entries should be easy to come by. Ensure that you also capture the person who detected the problem, the affected parties and how they were affected by the problem. Remember, the problem is the main reason why a root cause analysis was conducted. Therefore, make sure that this second part of your report is as detailed as possible.
You are free to include any necessary information that will shed light on the problem.
3. Offer a Chronology of Occurrences Leading to and After the Problem
Your report should offer a timeline. What does this mean? It would help if you wrote a detailed series of activities leading to and following the problem in simple terms. This should help the intended audience better understand what went wrong by giving them a solid reference point.
Remember, this is as just important as the second part of the report and should not, therefore, be downplayed. It needs to be detailed and as precise as possible. The chronology of events gives clues aimed at helping them understand how and why the problem occurred.
Like in the second part of the report, ensure that you include the names, time and detailed description of all activities. The chronology of events is best presented in a timeline table. If the problem is a last-minute leaking pipe, the report should capture previous activities such as assessment by a particular technician and any other related information.
Part of the table should also cover the occurrences after the given technician discovered the last-minute leaking pipe.
4. Offer Information on The Investigating Team, and The Methods Used
After explaining all the occurrences leading to the problem being analyzed, the fourth part of your report should be dedicated to the investigative team, and the method(s) used to conduct the investigation. Therefore, be sure to tell your intended audience how the investigative team was assembled. Were they chosen from every department, or are they members of the situational team? How was the decision reached?
Part of this should also include how the team gathered the data used in the particular analysis. Did they give questionnaires to different parties? Was the data gathered through observation? Ensure that you include any means used to arrive at the data used in the analysis.
The root cause analysis should also clearly capture the roles of the team. Do not, therefore, stop at the name of the team members, but be sure to explain the roles they played in the gathering of information and investigation of the problem.
Make sure that every member of the investigative team appears on the report. The purpose of reporting is to give a clear detail of the occurrences, which cannot be possible if some information is left out. This section must also establish the methodologies to be used in analysis to pave the way for the smooth flow of processes. Keep in mind that everything should move in a controlled and deliberate manner for the analysis to be successful.
If you are wondering why people put too much stress on this part, it is because the gist of root cause analysis dwells in gathering information about the problem. This is only possible through detailed investigation and proper methodologies.
However, do not discuss the team’s shortcomings as it is not needed in this type of report. Remember, the report needs to be specific and, in this case, talk about the root cause of the problem and not the team’s shortcomings.
5. Detail the Findings and The Route Cause(s) Based on Them
The close of every investigation will always reveal different findings. After writing the methodologies to gather information and shedding light on the investigation team, it is only right that you note down the findings.
Here, make sure that you capture everything discovered by the investigation team, however small or dismal it may seem. Like we mentioned, reporting is all about providing detailed information on a given problem.
Also, keep in mind that the root cause analysis can reveal findings not associated with the root cause of the problem. These should not be ignored but instead captured in the report under product/ process improvement steps. Remember, the investigation or analysis is always geared towards improving the product or project and anything that can contribute to this is welcome, whether related to the reason for investigation or not.
The management should also ensure that every finding is formally communicated with the project team, which is the essence of this part. Formal communication of findings ensures that any change to the project is made according to the change management process of the particular project.
This part of the report should also explain the problem’s root cause(s) based on these findings. All the other parts of the report are geared towards that. However, do not attempt to describe the corrective actions that ought to be taken to counter the root cause of the problem. We needed to highlight this since most people commit that mistake. The corrective actions are captured in the next part of the report.
6. Provide the Corrective Actions
The relevant corrective actions can only be arrived at after the problem’s root cause(s) has been identified. Remember, the root cause analysis not only attempts to understand the underlying cause of the problem but also helps come up with corrective actions that can be undertaken to prevent future occurrence of the same.
However, keep in mind that these actions normally affect the project’s scope, cost, and schedule. In most cases, these three will increase, calling for more funding. Therefore, the findings and corrective actions should be formally communicated to every team member to help change management. In fact, the team leader should communicate all information regarding the root cause analysis findings to help achieve a smooth change management process.
A good root cause analysis report should offer a thorough explanation of the problem at hand, given that this is why we conduct this type of analysis. It should also reveal a system of causes since RCA attempts to break down problems into cause-and-effect relationships. The best way of preventing a given problem from occurring is by digging deeper into the causes.
A good report should also avoid blame at all costs but focus on prevention. It should also properly detail specific actions that can improve the work process, as captured in the last part of the report talking about corrective actions.
Now that we have covered some of the six main steps you should adhere to when working on a root cause analysis report, we would like to furnish you with a few tips that will help you perform an effective root cause analysis.
Tips for Exceptional Root Cause Analysis
A hack that most people fail to recognize is that asking questions solves problems. The best way of determining the root cause of any problem is by drilling down and investigating all the potential causes. However, the questioning does not just end with identifying the root cause.
We need to ask more questions revolving around how the given root causes can be solved. One should even ask him/ herself the certainty of the decision. Only by doing this will it be possible to prevent the repeated occurrence of a given root cause.
Some more hacks include:
- Working with a Team
Having an extra pair of eyes will always be beneficial, especially in identifying problems and coming up with solutions. Therefore, whether working with a team or just a colleague, allowing input from others will furnish you with additional points of view, essential in coming up with solutions for the different root causes that you will identify.
- Planning for The Future
The role of the investigative team and stakeholders regarding root cause analysis does not stop at unveiling problems and coming up with solutions. They also need to look into the future. Therefore, while performing root analysis, one should take note and be aware of the process.
We also advise that one ask questions regarding the process and determine which techniques work best for the given business needs and environments.
- Root Cause Analysis Should Not Only Be Done for The Negative Things
Root cause analysis is one of the most trusted tools for figuring out where things went wrong. Most people rely on it to diagnose problems and come up with solutions. However, one needs to look at this analysis as more than just that.
We can also conduct root cause analysis to determine the root cause of success, especially if it comes early or the results are overwhelming. It is always a good thing to know why things proceeded exceptionally well for future projects.
Conducting a root cause analysis for successes will also help prioritize and protect the key factors that can be used to ensure the success of a given project.
These six steps should help you prepare an exceptional root cause report. Ensure that you offer as much information as possible to aid in the prevention of a similar occurrence.
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