The quality of a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and its Corrective Action Plan (CAP) should be evaluated many times over its lifecycle (i.e., from initial problem or event, through to final verified and sustainable improved state). Reviews occurring earlier in the lifecycle can really consider only the apparent quality of the investigation/analysis effort itself; these early reviews are what I will discuss in this article.
Problems happen all the time. How we choose to respond is a major factor in determining how badly we will be affected by any given problem. I would argue that a systematic response is best, and furthermore, I propose a 9-stage sequence (including root cause analysis) as discussed in this article.
How do you know if your organization is ready to investigate and analyze events? Being ready involves a lot more than just having a root cause analysis procedure and trained investigators. The whole organization must be ready to respond appropriately, in a way that minimizes loss, maximizes safety, yet preserves critical evidence and the ability to use it effectively.
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is generally conducted in several phases. I've seen some methodologies that break down the RCA process into as many as a dozen different steps. In reality, however, there are just three main phases we need to be concerned about. More importantly, these three phases are very different from each other... so different that they should always be kept distinctly separate. I've designated these phases Investigation, Analysis, and Decision. Read on to see why.