Getting to the Root Cause

We have all heard the definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”, yet we all continue to practice it! When looking to solve a problem, we often assume we know the answer or begin to solve it without really understanding what is happening. Once you have resolved the immediate issue, we suggest you take a step back and ask “why did this happen” especially if this is not the first time you’ve solved this problem.  This is called root cause analysis, digging deeper into an issue to uncover the real cause, this will then allow you to find real solutions.

Start by identifying your problem statement.

Then ask “why” documenting every reason that the team comes up with.

Take each reason individually and continue to ask why until you reach a dead end. Challenge yourself to keep asking, particularly if it becomes uncomfortable, this is where the real reason might exist.

Once you’ve reached the dead-end, ask “is this something within our control to change?” In almost every case the answer is yes. Most things are in our control, even if that is deciding to walk away from a particularly difficult client or not working in a municipality with unreasonable inspectors. We often believe we have no choice, but the reality is we always have a choice, the bigger question is can we live with the consequences of the choice?

We then decide how we will address the change. You might need to change a process or procedure; you might need to implement additional training or look at your organizational boundaries. You may decide to stay with a difficult client or continue to work within that troublesome area. The important thing here is, it is a choice and that brings us a measure of control.

Once you’ve decided on an action, be sure to communicate to all impacted employees. If at all possible, include the rationale for the decision, people are more likely to buy in to a solution if they understand the reason behind it.

Finally, once you have implemented the change be sure to evaluate its impact. Set a time three or six months out where you will do a quick check in: What did we want? What did we get? Are they different, if so why? What can we learn? What do we need to adjust?

Next time you find yourself having a sense of Deja vu about a problem do a little root cause analysis and solve it once and for all.