Root cause analysis for business analysts

Root cause analysis is used by business analysts to identify and analyze the root cause of a problem.

Root cause analysis is a methodical analysis of a problem that focuses on identifying the problem’s origin in order to fix the problem. It uses a repetitive analysis approach to confirm if there is more than one root cause.

Root cause analysis investigates different types of causes such as human error, lack of training, equipment failure, poor facility, or faulty process design.

Root cause analysis can be used for:

Reactive Analysis: this is the identification of the root cause of an existing problem fso that or remedial action can be taken.
Proactive Analysis: this is the identification of probable problem areas for preemptive actions.

Root cause analysis uses four main activities, which are:

  1. Problem Statement definition: this describes the issue to be resolved.
  2. Data collection: this is the collection of information about the nature, magnitude, location, and timing of the problem.
  3. Cause Identification: this is an exploration of the patterns to identify the specific actions that led to the problem.
  4. Action Identification: this describes the remedial action that will prevent or minimize recurrence.

Root cause analysis has some components, which include:

1 The Fishbone Diagram: A fishbone diagram which is also known as an Ishikawa or cause-and-effect diagram is used to identify and organize the potential causes of a problem.

This tool focuses on the cause of the problem rather than the solution and organizes the ideas for additional analysis. The diagram is a map that represents possible cause-and effect relationships.

The steps to create a fishbone diagram include the following:

Step 1. Document the problem in a box at the top of the diagram.
Step 2. Draw a line from the box across the paper this would form the spine of the fishbone).
Step 3. Draw diagonal lines from the spine to represent categories of
possible causes of the problem. These categories may include people, processes, tools, and policies.
Step 4. Draw smaller lines to represent deeper causes.
Step 5. Brainstorm categories and possible causes of the problem and
document them under the appropriate category.
Step 6. Analyze the results. Remember that the group has identified
only possible causes of the problem. Additional analysis is needed to
validate the actual cause, preferably with data.
Step 7. Brainstorm possible solutions once the actual cause has been

2 The Five Whys: The five whys is a question asking process to investigate the nature and cause of a problem. The five whys approach involves repeatedly asking the same questions in order to identify the root cause of the problem.

It is one of the simplest collaboration tools used when problems have a human interaction element.

These are the steps taken to create the five whys :

Step 1. Write the problem on a flipchart or whiteboard.
Step 2. Ask “Why do you think this problem occurs?” and document the
idea below the problem.
Step 3. Ask “Why?” again and document that idea below the first idea.
Continue with step 3 until you are sure that the actual root cause has been

This may take more or less than five questions—the technique is called the five whys because it often takes that many to reach the root cause, not because the question must be asked five times.

The five whys can be used alone or as part of the fishbone diagram technique. Once all ideas are documented in the fishbone diagram, use the five whys approach to drill down to the root causes.

Root cause anlysis has its strengths and limitations, which include:

• It helps to keep an objective perspective when performing cause-and-effect analysis.

• It works best when the business analyst has formal training to ensure the root causes, not just symptoms of the problem, are identified.
• It may be difficult with complex problems; it could lead to a false conclusion.