Problem Solving Tools – Root Cause Analysis


When you have a problem, is it more important to treat the symptoms or solve the underlying cause? If you only treat the symptoms, the underlying problem will continue to create troubles for you. If you cure the cause of your problem, you often find the symptoms are cured as well. But how do you find out what the underlying cause is?

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a problem solving technique that helps people find out why a problem occurred in the first place. RCA identifies the origin of a problem using a set of steps and some associated tools. Using RCA you can:

  • Determine what happened
  • Find out why it happened
  • Figure out how to prevent it from happening again

How Does Root Cause Analysis Work?

To do a root cause analysis, you must consider what is happening, why it is happening and how to fix it. To do this, you need to find everyone – experts, front line staff, etc. – who understands or is familiar with the situation. Working with a knowledgeable team will give you a better understanding of the issue and help you identify more symptoms and potential solutions to your core problem.

Root cause analysis is a 5-step process:

Step 1: Define the problem What is happening and what are the symptoms?

Step 2: Collect Data How long have you had the problem? What is the impact of the problem?

Step 3: Identify Possible Causes What led to the problem? What conditions allowed the problem to happen?

Step 4: Identify the Root Cause(s) What is the real reason the problem occurred?

Step 5: Recommend and Implement Solutions What can you do to prevent the problem from happening again? How will you implement the solution and who will be responsible?

Root cause analysis can be used to study any problem, from simple to complex, and find the core issue and possible solutions.

Find out more about Root Cause Analysis and additional tools available to you.

Additional Resources

Root Causes Analysis worksheet template


  • Think about a recurring problem in your workplace. Who would you ask to be on your team to help you analyze the problem?
  • How can you use root causes analysis to help you solve problems in your workplace?

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