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Root Cause Analysis

Out of all of Shift’s many animated video offerings, why is the Root Cause Analysis leading in viewership? Though the reasons aren’t alway obvious just from looking at the raw data, if I had to come up with a reason based on my experience, I would hazard a guess that people just want to know why a problem exists in their system and how to best use their time and resources to to find impactful solutions. If you’re someone who keeps running into issues, occurring over and over, without identifying a problem, no matter how hard they try to look…Root Cause Analysis offers a path to understanding.

Illustrated Characters in a Tomato Garden for Root Cause Analysis

Studying the System

This is an important element of Shift’s Approach To Improvement that enables improvers to critically evaluate what is underneath the problems they’re experiencing within their system (aka root causes).

The undesirable outcome—sometimes known as an adverse event or system failure—provides an opportunity to learn about the conditions that enable negative outcomes. This opportunity also promotes idea generation toward prevention against repeat occurrences. Identifying the conditions that produce these results can lead to creating the solutions needed to correct them once and for all. 

There are many other analysis tools available for those wanting to dig below the surface and identify the Root Cause holding back your organization, team, or project. I use Shift’s tools on the daily, but I also have a few bookmarked from peers and partners in Continuous Improvement that I use regularly. 

Here are two of my favorites:

When seeking to  identify root causes to a problem, inquiring “Why?” five times in succession can help drill down any surface factors to get at the true root cause. High Tech High, a Shift partner and leader in education improvement has a short video on how to use 5 Whys for root cause identification. 

[note: Shift also has an easy-to-use tool to for a 5 Whys analysis: 5 Whys - Root Cause.pdf]

The Fishbone Diagram (or Cause & Effect Diagram) is a helpful visualization tool to discover root causes. The causes are represented as fish bones while the problem (or effect) is represented as a fish head. See an example here on the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s website along with one of its famous whiteboard videos, demonstrating the Fishbone Diagram tool.

Did you know that Shift offers two helpful root cause analysis tools along with the video on root causes? These tools are designed to take a systematic view of barriers, or undesirable
outcomes and identify opportunities to understand and address the root cause of the problem.

If you have 't yet, click here to watch the Root Cause Analysis video. Afterwards, be sure to access the following tools on the Shift website:



Need a crash course or refresher on Root Cause Analysis? Need to know what to do once you start? 

Check out our Root Cause Analysis video.

These videos were produced in a response to the need for digital/virtual resources during the pandemic. Shift created a series of 16 videos focused on core ideas, methods, and practices of Continuous Improvement.

Video: Root Cause Analysis

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