Tag Archives: opinion

Root Cause Analysis – Art or Science?

There are many commonly held beliefs about root cause analysis that bother me. Perhaps the single most irksome to me is the statement "it's an art, not a science." I don't have anything against art, but I don't believe that this statement does justice to the practice of root cause analysis. In fact, I believe it is one of the most damaging perceptions that can be held by an investigator or be communicated to others.
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Optimization Is Not The Goal

Problems come in all shapes and sizes. I've been involved in all kinds of investigations, from those dealing with something as mundane a chronic lack of hot water in a shower facility, to something as critical as a software error that caused non-conservative miscalculations of reactor operating limits. I've even been involved in a fairly significant event before, which my "friends" keep reminding me about even though such remembrances cause me great pain and embarrassment. Sometimes, though, an event comes along that really drives home the value of doing a thorough incident investigation and root cause analysis.
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Root Cause Analysis for Complex Systems?

Is root cause analysis possible for complex systems? Some would say no, claiming that such systems are intractable -- that in complex systems, there is no such thing as causality, only pattern and correlation (see Pollard). Even the language used is different. Where others would say problem, cause, and solution, they say situation, pattern, and approach. These terminology differences aside, are the two viewpoints actually incompatible? Is root cause analysis possible for complex systems?
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Use of Cause Categories in Root Cause Analysis

I've been reading the TapRooT Blog lately, as it covers topics related to root cause analysis quite frequently. It's well-written, and while I don't agree with everything I see there, it does make me think. Anyway, the latest article asks, and tries to answer, a question on a topic that has many engendered spirited "discussions" on the Root Cause Live forum -- "Are categories a hindrance to good root cause analysis?" (link)
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