As a term, ‘RCA” is useless!! This is because there is no universally accepted definition, so however an organization is solving problems, they will call it ‘RCA’.
At RCI, we define RCA as:
"The establishing of logically complete, evidence-based, tightly coupled chains of factors from the least acceptable consequences to the deepest significant underlying causes."
It's not a 'simple' definition, but it is a thorough and comprehensive definition. Stay tuned as we'll dig deeper into what it all means in the future.
Reliability professionals could do RCAs on a napkin, using kraft paper and post it notes, or utilizing fancy software. In the end, the analysis is only as good as the analyst! I have seen some pretty bad ‘RCA’s documented in some really fancy software that had real potential. However, the analyst was not able to unleash that potential simply because they didn’t know how to properly conduct a Root Cause Analysis...they unknowingly were specializing in Shallow Cause Analysis.
That doesn’t make them bad people. They are often the victims of poor organizational systems at their facility. A while back I outlined how such poor systems impact the effectiveness of an RCA effort
If you get a chance, look at his video and let me know if those points hit home for you.
I want to briefly expand on three (3) of them, but in a positive light, showing how you can dramatically improve our RCA bottom-line results by simply focusing on the following:
If site leadership is serious about their RCA system, they will set expectations accordingly.
Ensure the RCA methodology matters. Don’t treat RCA like a commodity where one size fits all. Here are some criteria to consider, the methodology should:
Ensure that those analysts are qualified to do effective RCA
Ensure that those trained are able to actually implement what they learned in a timely fashion. Set expectations such as:
Ensure your analysts in the field have the environment to succeed. Management support includes:
Most of the time that RCA’s are conducted, are for serious and costly events. Such RCA’s have hit a pre-defined trigger (i.e. - $, lost units of production, safety incident, etc.).
By then, it's too late and it’s a reaction to a bad outcome.
It is often very hard to make a business case for conducting an RCA on a serious event. This is because they may happen once every 5 or 10 years. So we would have to wait 5 or 10 years to see if it happens again. Most of us won’t be in our current positions in 5 or 10 years. However, chronic failures are different.
Try finding RCA candidates by doing the following:
Leadership, or whoever listens to the final presentations of the RCA analysts, needs to learn how to properly evaluate and assess the quality of an RCA. Once they possess this skill, they need to reject RCA’s on the basis of poor quality, in order to raise the standards for an acceptable RCA. When an analyst’s RCA has been rejected on a constructive basis, the next time they return, they will come with a much better analysis.
Here are some things that leaders should look for in an effective RCA:
These 3 RCA suggestions will most definitely improve current RCAs based on demonstrable facts, and not just assumptions.
The proposed pathway is very logical, just like RCA should be:
I look forward to hearing of your RCA successes in the field. If you find you are still hitting hurdles, do an RCA on why your own RCA effort is not meeting expectations!
About the Author
Robert (Bob) J. Latino is CEO of Reliability Center, Inc. a company that helps teams and companies do RCAs with excellence. Bob has been facilitating RCA and FMEA analyses with his clientele around the world for over 35 years and has taught over 10,000 students in the PROACT® methodology.
Bob is co-author of numerous articles and has led seminars and workshops on FMEA, Opportunity Analysis and RCA, as well as co-designer of the award winning PROACT® Investigation Management Software solution. He has authored or co-authored six (6) books related to RCA and Reliability in both manufacturing and in healthcare and is a frequent speaker on the topic at domestic and international trade conferences.
Bob has applied the PROACT® methodology to a diverse set of problems and industries, including a published paper in the field of Counter Terrorism entitled, "The Application of PROACT® RCA to Terrorism/Counter Terrorism Related Events."
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