Six Sigma Tools for continuous quality improvement


Root Cause Analysis template

RCA template for cause mapping of root cause failure analysis

Why do Root Cause Analysis?

To gain clearer understanding of possible root causes,
and to brainstorm ideas for creative solutions to the problem.

Root Cause Analysis template

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Root Cause template

Why use a Root Cause template?

For the same reasons that you use any software

  1. To have a standardized process — with helpful training

    to remind your team of all the factors to consider every time that you do root cause analysis

  2. To be legible

    and understandable, even to people who didn't participate in drawing it

  3. To socialize your results

    with an Excel file or PDF that can be shared, discussed, and socialized

Bookmark = how

How to use your

Root Cause Analysis template

Choose the right root cause analysis tool

Before getting started, review this helpful training to choose the right Root Cause Analysis tool.

The Root Cause Analysis Map is the most popular.

Here are the detailed instructions for how to use it..

Before getting started

Dropdown lists for faster data entry and fewer mistakes

Your leaders might have already personalized
the DV sheet in your master template
so that you are starting with typical drop down lists for YOUR company.

If you are launching a new team, then use the same lean leadership tools and systems that you use to launch any team.

Find and open your template

Excel Ribbon bar > Systems2win menu

Find and open your
Root Cause Analysis Map template


in the same way that you find and open
your other 150+ Systems2win templates.

If you don't yet own a license,
you can download your free trial now.

Save your working document

following the usual document storage and naming conventions established by your leaders

Open a Blank Sheet

Systems2win menu > Open a Blank Sheet

When you're ready to start doing your own real work...

click the button to 'Open a Blank Sheet'

Excel Ribbon bar > Systems2win tab > Open a Blank Sheet

This blank sheet is where you will do your real work

(not on the Sample sheet)

Rename your new sheet.

Or... Insert Sheet

As an alternative to opening a stand-alone document (as instructed above),

you also have the option to Insert Sheet into any other Excel workbook.

If English is not your preferred language

Switch to your language, just like every Systems2win Excel template.

Now your team is ready to start using your

Root Cause Mapping template

Get Oriented

Notice that your Cause Mapping template is divided into 3 sections:

Root Cause Analysis template Print Areas
  1. The primary drawing area

    where you draw your root cause analysis map

  2. The optional section for Problem Analysis

    and notice that there are special links to quickly jump back and forth
    between the Problem Analysis section and the Top section

  3. Countermeasures

    just to the right of the primary drawing area

Print Areas

You can use the special Systems2win buttons

to print each of the 3 sections.

Print buttons in the Systems2win menu

In addition to the special print buttons for the 3 print areas,
you can also use Excel normal Printing features

For example, if your use CTRL+P,
then (as delivered) the Print Area will include both:

  1. the primary drawing area (Print Area 1)
  2. and the section for Countermeasures (Print Area 3)

And you can also use everything else that you you know or learn about Microsoft Excel Printing features

to perhaps change the default Print Area
to include or exclude the Countermeasures section.

Familiar surroundings

Familiar Microsoft Excel

Use everything you know about familiar Word and Excel

Hide unused rows and columns

You can use everything that you know about familiar Microsoft Excel

to easily hide unused columns in the drawing area

or to hide individual rows or entire unused sections in the Problem Analysis area

Because rows are shared
with the primary drawing area and the Countermeasures section,

there are special instructions for how to add, delete, or resize row heights
in the Countermeasures section. (as explained in the training below)

Phase 1) Define the Problem

Enter header data


Enter a brief description of the primary purpose of this document.

The Title that you enter in the main drawing section will also populate the Title fields
in the other 2 sections for Problem Analysis and Countermeasures.

Root Cause Analyisis template - Problem Definition

Revised Date

To change date format

Right-click > Format Cells > Number tab

Notice that Revised Date can be different in each section.

Other Header Data

Each section has a field where you can enter any other header data that you want at the top of that section.

Define the Problem

Use the text box to summarize
the most important aspects of the problem.

You can also follow the link
to the optional Problem Analysis section for more detail.

Text box for any other Pertinent Information

Use the extra text box to provide any other helpful information.

Most commonly, you will list the document Author and team members in this text box.

Tip: You can use everything you know about familiar Microsoft Excel.
You can move the text box anywhere. Or copy it for multiple text boxes. Or delete it...

Tip: Rather than duplicating Team Contact Information in multiple documents,
it is often more efficient and effective to provide a Link to a central document containing contact info.

Use the (optional) Problem Analysis section

Root Cause template navigation

Page Navigation

Like many of your Systems2win templates,

you can use the Navigation Links to quickly jump
to the Problem Analysis section and back to the Top

Everything in the Problem Analysis section is optional

Simply hide unused rows, or hide entire sections.

Root Cause Analysis template Problem Analysis


There are several optional rows to clarify 'When':


Optionally clarify the Location(s) and/or Work Area(s) where this problem happens.

or where the incident happened

Goals Impacted

Describe the Impact of this Problem
for each of your Goals.

Simply hide rows for goals that are not impacted.

For any user-defined goals — optionally overwrite the VLOOKUP formula with your own text.


You can optionally attempt to estimate the cost impacts of this problem.

To change the currency symbol: Right-click > Format Cells > Number tab

To change Frequency: Enter your desired frequency in the pink cell. (year, month, week...)


To analyze a problem incident,
it is sometimes helpful to create a timeline of what happened in what sequence.

Or you can simply hide rows for this entire optional section.

Pictures and Charts

Unhide this optional section to show any pictures, flow charts, or other illustrations to help clarify the problem.

Helpful training:

Stick Figures Illustrator   Flow Chart template

Popular templates to use for illustrations:

Action List for Information Gathering

Action List

If your team needs to divvy up & track responsibilities to gather information during your Problem Solving phase...

remember that you can always use Insert Sheet
to insert a familiar worksheet into any workbook...

for an Action List, or a To Do List, or Bowling Chart, or a Gantt Summary...

Revision Tracking

Revisiion Log

Some Root Cause Analysis projects get so long and drawn out
that they can benefit from a Revision Tracking System.

Reminder: With your Systems2win Excel add-in installed,
you can always use Insert Sheet to insert a RevLog worksheet
into ANY Excel workbook that you believe might benefit from revision control.

Optional Report Out

A3 Status Report for Root Cause Analysis phases

Like every other type of process improvement project...

your senior lean leadership might request a Status Report session
at the end of each phase of any project that takes more than a day.

And (as always) your PowerPoint Presentation of Results template
and/or A3 Report template provide a useful balance of:

  1. Guidance to ensure that your presentation includes all of the elements that it should... and
  2. Freedom to format your presentations with infinite flexibility and creativity

When you have completed the Problem Analysis phase to the satisfaction of your team...

or often more importantly, to the satisfaction of the stakeholders affected by this problem...

then you are ready to begin Phase 2...

Phase 2) Draw your Root Cause Analysis Map

Start with Goals Impacted

There should (eventually) be a red box for each of the Goals Impacted.

If you used the (optional) Problem Analysis section,
then you will now create a red box in the drawing area
for each of the Goals Impacted (that you have already identified).

Unlike a Root Cause Fishbone Diagram...

a Cause Map can optionally have more than one Impacted Goal on a single sheet...

each with their own branches of Causes and Effects,
and perhaps some of those branches intermingling.

Here's where the art of root cause mapping comes in...

Some people like to use a separate page for each Goal Impacted.

Some people like to start with separate pages, and then merge them later.

Some people like to analyze them all on one page, but one at a time.

Others like to add a red box for every Goal Impacted - right away.

Add boxes for Cause and Effects

Root Cause Analysis template - drawing

The first box

The first box to the right of each Impacted Goal answers the question:

"Why was this Goal impacted?"

or "In what way was this Goal impacted?"

Keep asking "Why?"

Keep adding more Cause and Effects boxes
until you reach root causes.

Provide Evidence (optional)

You can optionally add a red 'Evidence' shape beneath any Cause box - to provide supporting Evidence.

And remember that you can always use Link Icons to provide links to related documents.

Arrows and Connectors

Use everything you know about Arrows and Connectors

which are always the same in any drawing created using Microsoft Excel, Word, or PowerPoint,
so you can leverage your skills when creating drawings using any of these 3 interchangeable drawing tools

(which are completely different from Visio, or any other 3rd party drawing software)

Drawing Tips:

Root Cause Analysis template

You'll get a lot more out of this training if you have your template open in front of you

See the Sample sheet for examples, pop-up help, Excel tips, and other training aids

Use Snap To Grid for large shapes

then toggle Snap To Grid off — to add text boxes and connector arrows

To switch between elbow, straight, or curved connectors,

Right-click an arrow, then select 'Connector Type'

Right-click a shape > Bring to Front, or Send to Back

Learn how to use Excel as a Drawing Tool


It is sometimes helpful to copy the clear text labels
to clarify some Causes that are related...

with either And, Or, or And/Or

Section Headings (optional)

You can also copy the optional Section Headings for:

Man, Machine, Methods, Materials, Measures, or Mother Nature (Environment)

(or any user-defined section headings)

Section Labels are optional.

Even if you don't use them,
they can provide a useful reminder to consider possible causes in each of the primary categories.

International global teams...

Notice that many of the text labels are translated...

so that they still make sense even when you switch between languages

When you have completed the drawing section of your Root Cause Analysis template

to the satisfaction of your team, management, and stakeholders...

then you are ready to begin Phase 3...

Phase 3) Countermeasures

cartoon of alien thinking

Brainstorm Countermeasures


The ultimate purpose of every lean tool and method is to stimulate human thinking.

As always, the questions on the Hansei page can help stimulate better ideas.

Your team leader might also choose to facilitate brainstorming.


Prefix and Reference Number

Root Cause Analysis template - Countermeasures section

In the green shape above each Cause box,
optionally refer to the reference numbers
in the Countermeasures section.

The first two columns in the Countermeasures section are 'Prefix' and 'Number'

Use prefixes to refer to line items in different documents.

For example:

Perhaps use the prefix 'CAPA'
if only documented here

in this Countermeasures table
for Corrective And Preventive Actions

and perhaps use the prefix of 'PFMEA' or 'CPlan'
to refer to a Process Step number in an FMEA or Control Plan.

(and then perhaps use a Link Icon to allow your users to quickly open the related document)

Task or Control Method

BRIEF description of the CAPA Task
or the Control Method that is detailed in an FMEA or Control Plan.

Important Tip: Resizing row height will affect images in the drawing.

so study this training about word wrap...

Bookmark = wrap

Word Wrap (without distorting shapes)

Explanation of the Problem:

In order to allow the option to include the Countermeasures section in a single Print Area
along with the primary drawing area...

the compromise is that if you change row heights in the Countermeasures section,
shapes might be affected in the drawing area.

Alternative Solutions:

  1. Row heights have been specially formatted

    so that rows remain the same height (25.5)
    even when you enter longer wrapped text.

    If you leave row heights alone, then the first 2 rows of text will be visible,
    and Excel users can select the cell to see the rest of the text (in the Formula bar).

  2. Resize row heights anyway

    If there are no shapes sharing the rows that you want to resize... then there is no problem.
    You might go ahead and resize row height to fit your word wrapped text.

    Or... if there are shapes in that row...
    you might temporarily move those shapes out of the way,
    then resize the row height, then move the shapes back into the drawing area.

  3. Rather than entering such long text, you might instead:

    a) Refer to the Comments text box

    b) Use the Comments cell (that is outside of the Print Area)

    (Just be sure not to use word wrap in that cell either)

    c) Use Cell Comments

    d) Link to related documents

  4. Use a text box instead of entering data into cells

    Just outside of the print area, you will find a text box that has been preformatted for this purpose.

    Simply drag that text box into the print area, and use snap to grid to make it fit perfectly...

    and then you don't have to worry about word wrap affecting row heights

    Or add your own text box anywhere within the print area

    and use it to document your proposed and chosen Countermeasures.

Bookmark = rows

How to Add or Move Rows (in the Countermeasures section)

You can use Insert Copied Cells (or Move Cut Cells), or Shift Down and Copy (or Shift Down and Move)...

(Remember in New User Training, we said that this was the single most important Excel skill that you will ever learn?)

but unlike most situations...

where you usually want to move or copy only entire rows...

this is one situation where you want to move or copy only the cells in the Countermeasures section

(thereby leaving the entire drawing area unaffected)

Who and Status

Like so many of your other Systems2win templates,

you can define options for your user-defined dropdown lists on the DV sheet.


Line items that don't have a Status of 'Done' (or something similar)

should have a Due Date.

Decision PICK Matrix

Make Decisions

Choose which Countermeasures to implement,

perhaps using some of your Decision Making Tools.

Verification Audit

Implement and Verify

Use your Lean Management tools and skills

to Measure Results
and verify that your Countermeasures actually work as expected.

Root Cause Analysis template

with many other useful Root Cause Analysis Tools
for Lean, Six Sigma and Quality Improvement



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  1. This Root Cause Map
  2. The Fishbone Diagram





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