Problems will surface in any project no matter what precautions you take and how streamlined the system is. But, you have got a powerful method, known as the root cause analysis (RCA), that assists you in pinpointing issues effortlessly.
Expert project managers and business leads use the RCA procedure to find out issues that hurt the business. Identifying the problems also helps you to develop solutions to avoid the same issues in the future.
If you are a business manager, project manager, operations lead, or trainee business executive, you must learn about the RCA method and supporting tools or templates.
Continue reading the article to discover some basic and advanced information on RCA. You will also find some easy-to-use root cause analysis templates that will help you during your project management career.
What Is Root Cause Analysis?
RCA is the procedure of finding the root causes of issues and bottlenecks to develop appropriate solutions. The process considers it truly effective to systematically prevent and resolve the exact problems rather than simply handling individual symptoms.
Your team can perform the RCA procedure through a set of principles, methodologies, and techniques. You need to formulate the process so that the team can leverage RCA’s resources to identify the issue-causing elements for any business trend, project, or event.
A root cause analysis system helps you identify the root cause of a failure or stall of an organized process. For example, processing customer service tickets, manufacturing goods, etc., will always face new challenges. Your weapon to battle such novel problems is an RCA and its documentation.
Almost all industries or commercial activities use this tool to detect the deeper problem underlying operations or service processes. It is not economically viable to resolve the same issue every time. Hence, you need to identify the actual cause and then weed it out once and all using the RCA technique.
Why Is Root Cause Analysis Important?
#1. Cut Down Costs
If non-maintenance of factory machinery is causing breakage of moving parts, you may contact the manufacturer to replace those parts. If it happens frequently, it will increase the production cost. Instead, you can perform an RCA to pinpoint the main cause of instrument servicing, which will save time and money.
#2. Discovering Flaws and Main Causes
If your business deals with products, services, processes, technologies, and systems, performing an RCA before launching the product will help you identify underlying design faults. Once you fix those and deliver products or services, you will gain customers’ trust.
#3. Develop a Streamlined Process Troubleshooter
RCA documents let anyone linked to the process resolve future issues following a help article. Thus, you do not need to spare an expert or pay third parties each time an old issue surfaces.
#4. Make Workplaces Safer
Most workplaces that handle mission-critical and hazardous tasks perform an RCA to discover workplace safety issues. It helps the organization to stay compliant with local or international safety workplace safety requirements.
If you perform an RCA diligently before starting the manufacturing process, you can resolve design faults that usually surface when end users use the product. Thus, you will take quality products to the market faster than your competitors.
#7. React to an Issue Immediately
RCAs help businesses develop standard operating procedures (SOP) for safety issues, software downtimes, process breakdowns, natural calamities, etc. Hence, your team can simply follow the SOP and react faster to new and old issues.
Must-Have Components of a Root Cause Analysis Template
If you are creating an RCA template or customizing an existing one, be mindful that you must include the following elements in the RCA document:
#1. Description of the Event
You need to create a detailed SOP for event description in an RCA. Also, there should be a company-wide accepted format on which staff or executives will enter details. The description data should contain the date, time, incident definition, witnesses, victims, etc.
#2. Timeline of the Events or Trends
The timeline section should include a thorough description of all incidents before, during, and after the accident or issue occurred. It will help discover the underlying causes of the event. You can include data like time, date, involved persons, damaged machines, hampered data, etc., in the timeline.
#3. The Method and Team for Investigation
The success of the entire RCA process will depend on its methodology and the team who will perform the procedure. The method of the RCA should follow the standard principles, tools, and templates. However, depending on the production process or service delivery system, you need to customize certain parameters.
Once you have finalized the RCA procedure, draft an RCA document and send it across departments for review and feedback. Analyze the feedback and comments to draft the final root cause analysis template that the department or company will follow.
Now, gather experienced people from the process and explain the RCA procedure to them. This will be the team who are responsible for following the company-suggested RCA method diligently.
#4. Root Causes/Investigative Findings
Once you have the RCA, you must investigate the issues to the maximum granular level possible. Again, there must be a dedicated team for this task. You can include operations managers, process associates, engineers, data specialists, etc., depending on your business.
The investigation process will also require pre-approved data recording, analyzing, and reporting procedures.
#5. Action Plan to Correct the Process/Product
Once investigators come up with solutions to the issues of the RCA, you need to document those suggestions. Now, draft another SOP to train the affected employees on how to tackle such incidents in the future.
Sometimes, businesses will need to get such SOPs approved by technical, quality control, and factory managers so that everyone stays in the loop.
Some Popular Root Cause Analysis Tools
#1. Pareto Chart
This RCA tool is also famous for the 80-20 rule. You can use it to visualize the frequency of incidents and their accumulated effects. The author of the Pareto Chart, Vilfredo Pareto, said that 20% of potential errors would cause 80% of failures in a process.
Thus, with the help of this chart, you can focus on 20% of potential elements of your product or service that are likely to cause product flaws or service breakdowns.
The Pareto chart is essentially a bar graph that includes the causes and frequency of faults. If you can create the graph accurately, it will clearly visualize the skew between failures and causes. Most process managers find it surprising that small factors cause most failures.
#2. 5 Whys
It is the simplest procedure for conducting an RCA. You only need to create a root cause analysis template with why-based questions. Usually, you need to ask why an incident 5 times. That should enable you to drill down to the root cause of any process or product failure.
However, there are 5 Whys-based RCAs that could contain more than 5 questions. Since the process requires investigative capabilities and questioning, you should follow a company-wide process for such RCA. Otherwise, you may not trust the findings from an RCA that uses random questions.
5 Whys analysis mainly includes a problem statement and then 5 questions about the problem at hand. For example, why did an agent stop processing customer tickets? If the answer is the internet, then why did the internet fail. Simply, keep on asking more questions until you reach the root cause.
#3. Fishbone Diagram
Ishikawa or fishbone diagram is another popular visual method of RCA. The final diagram looks like a fishbone and hence the name. The tool’s creator is Kaoru Ishikawa, the famous quality management innovator from Japan.
The rightmost or leftmost part of the chart is the failure or issue. Then, you draw a straight line and include categories of potential causes like procedures, environment, people, equipment, etc. Now, within these sections, you need to place the granular reasons.
Businesses mostly use this tool on their root cause analysis template for an issue that is unknown or has never occurred before. Furthermore, experts also use the fishbone diagram to analyze complex problems, discover various aspects of the root cause, and discover process bottlenecks.
#4. Scatter Plot
It is an RCA tool that helps you create a process RCA template for complex issues. When there are more root causes than expected from the 80-20 rule, you need to visualize the relationship between the cause and effect.
Scatter plots are a widely used tool to find correlations between quantifiable variables. Here, you need to make a scatter graph of the variables of cause and effect. You must put the effects on the X-axis and causes on the Y-axis.
If the resulting scatter graph shows a curve or a straight line, then the components are correlated. If there is no correlation, keep changing the X-axis variables’ values.
Failure mode and effects analysis, or FMEA, is a highly popular tool for RCA among product developers and designers. It helps the development team discover potential problems before manufacturing the product bulk. Usually, the team uses one or two prototype products to identify design faults and other issues.
Then, failure mode analysis begins on the prototype to identify all the possible failures. Now, simply outline the issues in another table, look for root causes, or perform an effect analysis.
So far, you have learned the basics of root cause analysis and its tools. Find below some useful templates the for above root cause analysis tools (RCAT) from the following free resources:
You may already know Smartsheet as one of the leading business tools for digital workspace, remote collaboration, and workflow automation. You will be amazed to know that you can also use its template library to create RCA documents that actually work.
The Smarsheet library is rich in various types of root cause analysis examples that easily fit in many business projects or workplaces. For example, it gives you easy access to the followings:
Simple RCA template
Six Sigma DMAIC method for RCA
RCA template based on the 5 Whys tool
Healthcare cause mapping
RCA for a chemical company
The above templates are also available in various formats like Microsoft Word files, Microsoft Excel template, and Adobe PDF files. You can easily download these formats without jumping through hoops.
The Guru template for the RCA procedure is another reliable source for drafting RCA documentation for businesses. It presents to you various free examples and tools of the RCA method, like:
A Pareto Chart-based RCA document that assists you in identifying issues like lack of training, too few service center staff, and poor preparation that causes businesses to struggle.
The 5 whys technique to identify why your company’s turnover rate is higher than the market average or competitors.
A fishbone diagram as an RCA tool for identifying root causes that are new or unknown.
Six Sigma and DMAIC for RCA
FMEA to hunt down problems that arise during any product development lifecycle.
TemplateLab is yet another go-to resource for various templates on art, real estate, business, legal, finance, etc. Hence, you can also rely on this resource for high-quality RCA content like forms, examples, and templates.
The content available on this platform is easily accessible through single-click downloads. You will find RCA documents in various formats like Adobe PDF, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Word.
The RCA document repository is rich in real-world examples like RCA investigation reports, empty RCA data collection forms, RCA documents for beginners, RCA via fishbone diagrams, and RCA for a business development group.
It will be easier for you to edit the templates when you download Word or Excel files. If you get PDFs, you must use a PDF editor to personalize the example documents.
In this article, we have taken you through an in-depth discussion on root cause analysis. The article also outlines some of the vital root cause analysis tools and templates you can use in real-world scenarios.
You should become more confident and skilled when resolving workplace or project issues through root cause analysis.
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Statistical analysis provides a systematic and objective approach to extracting meaningful insights from data. It helps in making evidence-based decisions, drawing reliable conclusions, and understanding the inherent variability and uncertainties in various processes and systems.