#37 – Root-Cause Analysis

Authors comment:

When problems, challenges or opportunities for improvement appear at, e.g., Retrospectives, instead of jumping directly to solving it, it is often beneficial to identify the possible root causes for it. We do this because we want to be sure that we are removing the real source of the problem instead of treating the symptoms.

An effective way of doing this is by using the Five Whys, which is an iterative, interrogative method to identify what causes the problem to be solved. However, as this can be a bit too simplistic for complex issues, using a Fishbone (or Ishikawa) diagram to cover different aspects of the problem can help us get better around the problem. Each “bone” of the Fishbone represent a different view of the problem, such as Environment, Product, Process, People or Method.

The challenge, however, is if many different, unrelated root causes appear. A simple, pull-based approach to identify which root cause to brainstorm solutions for is by letting the team vote on which root cause they actually want to focus on. No matter the approach, it’s important that the idea generation happens on the actual root cause and not a symptom or effect of the real cause.