Root Cause Analysis

Powerful Essays
Root Cause Analysis: A Framework for Tool Selection
A. MARK DOGGETT, HUMBOLDT STATE UNIVERSITY
© 2005, ASQ

This article provides a framework for analyzing the performance of three popular root cause analysis tools: the cause-and-effect diagram, the interrelationship diagram, and the current reality tree. The literature confirmed that these tools have the capacity to find root causes with varying degrees of accuracy and quality. The literature, however, lacks a means for selecting the appropriate root cause analysis tool based upon objective performance criteria. Some of the important performance characteristics of root cause analysis tools include the ability to find root causes, causal interdependencies, factor relationships, and cause categories. Root cause analysis tools must also promote focus, stimulate discussion, be readable when complete, and have mechanisms for evaluating the integrity of group findings. This analysis found that each tool has advantages and disadvantages, with varying levels of causal yield and selected causal factor integrity. This framework provides decision makers with the knowledge of root cause analysis performance characteristics so they can better understand the underlying assumptions of a recommended solution. Key words: collaboration, decision making, problem solving, quality methods

INTRODUCTION
Beneath every problem is a cause for that problem. In order to solve a problem one must identify the cause of the problem and take steps to eliminate the cause. If the root cause of a problem is not identified, then one is merely addressing the symptoms and the problem will continue to exist. For this reason, identifying and eliminating root causes of problems is of utmost importance (Andersen and Fagerhaug 2000; Dew 1991; Sproull 2001). Tools that help groups and individuals identify potential root causes of problems are known as root cause analysis tools. The cause-and-effect diagram (CED), the interrelationship diagram (ID),



References: Andersen, B., and T. Fagerhaug. 2000. Root cause analysis: Simplified tools and techniques. Milwaukee: ASQ Quality Press. Arcaro, J. S. 1997. TQM facilitator’s guide. Boca Raton, Fla.: St. Lucie Press. Bhote, K. R. 1988. World class quality: Design of experiments made easier, more cost effective than SPC. New York: AMA. Brassard, M., and D. Ritter. 1994. The memory jogger II: A pocket guide of tools for continuous improvement and effective planning. Salem, N.H.: GOAL/QPC. Brassard, M. 1996. The memory jogger plus+: Featuring the seven management and planning tools. Salem, N.H.: GOAL/QPC. Cox, J. F. III, R. H. Draman, L. H. Boyd, and M. S. Spencer. 1998. A cause and effect approach to analyzing performance measures: Part 2 — internal plant operations. Production and Inventory Management Journal, 39, no. 4:25-33. Cox, J. F. III, and M. S. Spencer. 1998. The constraints management handbook. Boca Raton, Fla.: St. Lucie Press. Dettmer, H. W. 1997. Goldratt’s theory of constraints. Milwaukee: ASQ Quality Press. Dew, J. R. 1991. In search of the root cause. Quality Progress 24, no. 3:97-107. 44 QMJ VOL. 12, NO. 4/© 2005, ASQ Root Cause Analysis: A Framework for Tool Selection Doggett, A. M. 2004. A statistical comparison of three root cause analysis tools. Journal of Industrial Technology 20, no. 2. Fredendall, L. D., J. W. Patterson, C. Lenhartz, and B. C. Mitchell. 2002. What should be changed? Quality Progress 35, no. 1:50-59. Gattiker, T. F., and L. H. Boyd. 1999. A cause-and-effect approach to analyzing continuous improvement at an electronics manufacturing facility. Production and Inventory Management Journal 40 no. 2:26-31. Goldratt, E. M. 1990. What is this thing called theory of constraints and how should it be implemented? New York: North River Press. Goldratt, E. M. 1994. It’s not luck. Great Barrington, Mass.: North River Press. Ishikawa, K. 1982. Guide to quality control, second edition. Tokyo: Asian Productivity Organization. Khaimovich, L. 1999. Toward a truly dynamic theory of problemsolving group effectiveness: Cognitive and emotional processes during the root cause analysis performed by a business process re-engineering team. Ph.D. diss., University of Pittsburgh. Abstract in Dissertation Abstracts International 60:04B: 1915. Lepore, D., and O. Cohen. 1999. Deming and Goldratt: The theory of constraints and the system of profound knowledge. Great Barrington, Mass.: North River Press. Mizuno, S., ed. 1988. Management for quality improvement: The seven new QC tools. Cambridge: Productivity Press. Moran, J. W., R. P. Talbot, and R. M. Benson. 1990. A guide to graphical problem-solving processes. Milwaukee: ASQ Quality Press. Pasquarella, M., B. Mitchell, and K. Suerken. 1997. A comparison on thinking processes and total quality management tools. 1997 APICS constraints management proceedings: Make common sense a common practice. Falls Church, Va.: APICS. Scheinkopf, L. J. 1999. Thinking for a change: Putting the TOC thinking processes to use. Boca Raton, Fla.: St. Lucie Press. Scholtes, P. 1988. The team handbook: How to use teams to improve quality. Madison, Wis.: Joiner. Schragenheim, E. 1998. Management dilemmas: The theory of constraints approach to problem identification and solutions. Boca Raton, Fla.: St. Lucie Press. Smith, D. 2000. The measurement nightmare: How the theory of constraints can resolve conflicting strategies, policies, and measures. Boca Raton, Fla.: St. Lucie Press. Sproull, B. 2001. Process problem solving: A guide for maintenance and operations teams. Portland: Productivity Press. Wilson, P. F., L. D. Dell, and G. F. Anderson. 1993. Root cause analysis: A tool for total quality management. Milwaukee: ASQ Quality Press. BIOGRAPHY Mark Doggett is the chair of the Department of Industrial Technology at Humboldt State University. He is currently working to revitalize the study of technology on his campus and improve the technological literacy of the local community. His interests are quality management practices, lean manufacturing, theory of constraints, and systems thinking. He has also performed research in various decision-making and problem-solving strategies used by students, managers, and policy makers. His areas of expertise include leadership, process management, and manufacturing technology with more than 20 years of experience in business and industr y. Doggett received his doctorate at Colorado State University in interdisciplinary studies and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Industrial Technology. He can be reached by e-mail at Mark.Doggett@humboldt.edu. www.asq.org 45

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