Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Root Cause - Addressing Systemic Causes Not Symptoms

Comment on Just Ask Why Five Times? Effective Problem Solving for #Lean or #LeanStartup Doesn’t Start or End There

> Would you agree that complex systems rarely have a single root cause?

Yes. And also "root cause" is a neat concept but in reality it is not usually "true" but an a sensible acceptance of a cause that is systemic enough and addressable enough to consider "root." It isn't that there is this "true root cause" that created the current problem. There is a way to look at the issue and find a deeper cause that will allow you to address it and improve the future performance of the system.

Depending on how you look at the problem there can be many different "root causes" that are sensible from their different perspectives. The important thing is by aiming to fix root/systemic problems you will not just treat the current symptom you are dealing with today but eliminate future problems from occurring. If you are doing that, you are doing well.

If you start noticing that you are addressing problems that could have been addressed in previous attempts to address root causes, you can exploring whether going further in each attempt makes sense. It isn't as simple as this but if you notice you addressed a systemic problem at the "branch" level effectively for example. So if you had 3 fixes that did stop future problems on each of the branches but on the fourth fix you looked and said hey all 4 of these connect to this larger branch (or tree trunk - which is connected to a real "root") I would say asking if you should have addressed the "next why" may well make sense.

Related: Root Cause, Interactions, Robustness and Design of Experiments - Address the Root Cause Instead of Finding the Person to Blame - Poor Results Should be Addressed by Improving the System Not Blaming Individuals - Firing Workers Isn’t Fixing Problems - Examine the System, Don't Look to Blame a Person - Why Do You Ask Why?