Finding the Root Cause of Organisational Issues

Understanding the “root cause” of why something happens is critical for dealing with many of our problems. This is particularly true when it comes to running a business. Distraction, deflection and playing “the blame game” are used too often when we deal with organizational issues.

The book Root Cause Analysis, defines the term as,

“that most basic reason for an undesirable condition or problem which, if eliminated or corrected, would have prevented it from existing or occurring.”

Symptoms Vs Root Cause

When your business faces a breakdown in your systems or processes there are generally two options to address the issue. You can continuously work on the “symptoms” and be stuck as a helpless victim, because the underlying issue still exists. Or, you can understand and tackle the underlying problem that’s causing the issue (aka the root cause).

The best approach? Option two. By discovering the “why” you avoid brushing over the surface of an issue and dive into solving the real problem.

Think of it this way. If you have weeds growing in your garden, you must dig deep to remove the weeds from their roots. This prevents the problem from reoccurring (weeds growing back). If you only focus on the symptoms of a problem (removing just the top of the weed), it will likely come back.

The Steps To Finding The Root Cause Of An Issue

1. Identify and describe the existing problem.

Before being able to confront a problem its existence needs to be identified. Whilst this may seem obvious, many problems have a negative impact for quite some time before they are recognised. Or brought to the attention of someone who can do anything about them.

2. Collect data associated with the problem.

Speak to employees, stakeholders etc to seek their perspectives. Find out how regularly this problem occurs (if it is recurring), and measure the impact of the problem.

3. Identify possible causes.

Use root cause analysis tools such as a fishbone diagram, The 5 Whys, Scatter Diagram etc. List as many possible causes as you can (ignore the solutions at this point and just focus on possible causes)

4. Identify solutions.

Find out how to avoid this from happening again in the future and decide who will implement changes. Also decide who is responsible for monitoring the process and what methods you will use for reporting.

5. Implement changes.

Embed the new processes, execution is key.

6. Observe the changes.

Monitor the outcomes of the new processes to ensure the problem has been resolved – at the root cause.

Deflection And “The Blame Game”

Individuals who often blame others for their mistakes will over time lose status, learn less, and perform worse than those who own up to their mistakes. Likewise, when teams and organisations have a “blame-game” culture it impacts their creativity, innovation, communication and productivity.

Avoiding deflection and owning up to mistakes within an organisation will form a culture of trust, respect and collaboration. Set an example by confidently taking ownership for failures and focus on learning from mistakes and moving forward. Remember – mistakes can teach valuable lessons that lead to future innovation.


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Strategy and Execution Business Advisors and Scaling Up Coaches in Brisbane & Australia
Ted Bonel – Strategy & Execution Advisors

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