How many times did you see a root cause analysis that ends up with a symptom rather than the root cause? Yeah, I know that is a common and reoccurring problem. Most of the people that tasked to do root cause analysis are following the five whys (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_whys) as a way to get to the root cause, but rarely I saw the real root cause. What I saw are five ways that not necessarily dive into the layers of organizations to find the root cause.
To overcome this problem root cause analysis can be augmented with the following layer model of organizations. This model depicts that the core layer of an organization is its purpose.
Around the purpose, a company was established. Around purpose, the first layer created. This layer is a management system and practice that the founders adopted from one or more management theories.
The founders and the management team creating and maintaining an organizational structure to enforce the management system and practice they try to follow.
Over time people are added to the company. Once they joined, there is a constant management process that makes sure that people are a fit to the management practice, they can work within the structure and they believe in the purpose. Management will filter any individual that is not fit any one of the above three conditions.
Once management practice defines the structure and people are joining a culture is emerging. The culture is like a shadow created by management, structure, and people layers.
People are adding new technologies to increase their ability to reach the company’s purpose by taking advantage of computers’ competitive advantage over humans in certain business areas.
All the layers mentioned so far are required to run business processes.
The reason that I’m walking you through this model is that it can be used in cognition with the five why’s. Every problem that raised can be easily mapped to one of the model layers. The model suggests that once a layer of a problem determined, the five whys should go down at least to layers in the model to find the root cause.
If the five ways found the cause in the same layer or one layer down where the problem mapped, the work is not getting into the root cause. It is still indicating symptoms of the problem. To find the root cause the five whys need to dive in at least two layers below.
This model together with the five whys is simple and elegant to use and helps people to find root causes. Feel free to use it. I’ll be happy to hear about your experience and any idea of how to improve it.