Origins of Analyzing the Root Causes in Risk Management
The development of root cause analysis as part of project management disciplines can be traced back to the 70s when a cognitive psychologist named James Reason expounded on the analysis of human error. His studies led to the conclusion that most errors occur due to lack of clear and definitive specifications about plans of actions. As a result, human errors occur when the doer of the action tends to function automatically and, at times, performs while in a state of absent-mindedness.
Professor Reason’s logic was so widely received that he became one of the leading innovators of tools for improving patient safety in the health care industries.
In 1975, a chemical engineer named Ludwig Benner developed a technique for the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board for investigating hazmat transportation accidents. He developed an analytical tool in which causal factors were charted. It became a part of investigative procedures for analyzing observations or any information related to an accident’s occurrence.
It was in the year 2000 that the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations formally submitted to a U.S. Senate subcommittee their recommendations for reducing adverse events arising from medical errors. The solution was to develop mechanisms that would ensure patient safety. The recommendation included root cause analysis (RCA) as an important tool to ensure efficiency of performance and to correct the recurrence of unlikely events.
As the years unfolded, the analysis of causal factors became an important discipline for different types of organizations. Initially, RCA methods delved mostly into human errors and equipment failures, until the advent of computer automation gave rise to systems malfunction. Factors such as demands for quality and environmental stewardship, as well as safety and reliability issues, created conditions that required monitoring of causal factors as part of the procedure. As a note, a causal factor in layman’s terms means a symptom or a warning sign.
Premature conclusions and unfounded conjectures merely impress theories --- thereby resulting in half-baked solutions that only make the problems worse. Thus, the matter of identifying the root of a problem has been developed into a form of discipline adopted by various organizations.
The root cause analysis methods being used in today’s more complex systems and procedures go beyond scratching the surface but entail digging deeper into the underlying causes. The purpose of this is to isolate the core reason that gives rise to a causal factor.
In project management, there are several tools and methods used for monitoring negative indicators that could jeopardize the project’s continuity or outcome. Overviews for three of the most popular RCA methods are featured below, to provide readers with more insights on analyzing through charting techniques. They are systematic methods of deliberation and evaluation of negative indicators and their relationships to underlying events.