Six Sigma Tools for continuous quality improvement


Root Cause Analysis Tools

Guidance to choose the right Root Cause Analysis Form

What is Root Cause Analysis?

The phrase 'Root Cause Analysis' is used to describe a variety of lean six sigma tools and methods

cartoon big glasses

that each provide a systematic, teachable, coachable approach
to identify root causes (not just symptoms)

which can then be systematically eliminated, minimized, or (at least) detected
using a variety of problem solving tools and lean management systems

When to do Root Cause Analysis

Whenever something goes wrong (or might go wrong)

that caused (or might cause) enough damage, pain, and cost


When you are the author,
are you proud
of what you deliver?

to justify investing a few minutes to ensure that it never happens (again)

Why use Root Cause Analysis Tools?

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 this (infrequent) process improvement activity

  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

Which Root Cause Analysis Form?

Ishikawa Root Cause Analysis Fishbone Diagram

Root Cause Ishikawa Fishbone Diagram

The most popular well-known tool for root cause problem solving

is the Ishikawa Fishbone Diagram  (RootCause.xlsx)

It is the right tool to use when:

Root Cause Analysis Map

The Root Cause Analysis Map  (RootMap.xlsx)

is equally easy to use, and yet usually proves to yield more thorough analysis,
and is therefore often a better choice for root cause analysis.

It is the right tool to use when:

Root Cause Mapping template

Thought Map Relations Diagram

Relations Diagram for root cause analysis

If you really don't know what to put in the fish head

because you're swimming in problems,
and can't choose which one to focus on first...

then that's the time to consider using your
Thought Map Relations Diagram  (RelationsDiagram.xlsx)

You might only use this template once in your career

but it might save your career when you do

Brainstorming Template

Brainstorming template for root cause analysis

The decision of whether or not to use

your Brainstorming template  (Brainstorming.docx)

is not an 'either / or' choice

A skilled facilitator will be ready to introduce a team

to diverse brainstorming methods

no matter which other tools or approaches are also being used

Gemba Interview Form

Gemba Interview Form for root cause probelm sollving

Why not ask the people who do the work every day?

Rather than just silently observing...
and then huddling in a conference room
to make guesses about root causes,

if you get in the habit of asking the people that do the work,
you will often find that they have some pretty pretty intuitive insights and ideas.

8D Problem Solving

8D root cause analysis template

If your problem might involve other members of your supply chain

then your 8D Problem Solving template  (8D.xlsx)

has a special feature to 'Generate a Working Document'
so that you can circulate your root cause analysis
problem solving document with your suppliers

(and others that don't own a license for Systems2win)

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA)

It has been said that "an FMEA is an 8D waiting to happen"

FMEA tools for root cause analysis

Rather than waiting to do post-mortem root cause analysis
on accidents and incidents that have already inflicted damage...

a more competent team will get proactive...

and use their FMEA templates and systems
to anticipate, minimize, and prevent potential risks

(and especially root causes of potential risks)

Five Whys Template

5 Whys PowerPoint slide

The simplest form of root cause analysis

is to simply ask "Why?" several times

Your Systems2win templates don't include a Five Whys template

but you will find several free ones on the Internet

The right way to use a Five Whys PowerPoint template

is to create a succinct summary of the one most important Cause and Effect thread

that your team came up with as a result of using one of the (thorough) root cause analysis tools above.

The wrong way to use a Five Whys template

is to try to short-cut the process by following only 1 thread of Cause and Effect relationships

and then proudly proclaiming that you are "using lean methods"

Although there are rare situations where a problem is so simple that you might justifiably use this extremely abbreviated approach... but much more commonly... this would be an example of 'fake lean'.

These Root Cause Analysis templates
come with many other useful tools
for Lean, Six Sigma, Quality Improvement, and Lean Management



priced low enough to empower every team member


Suggested Reading and Resources for

Root Cause Analysis Tools

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