Resolving issues: Address the root cause not the symptoms | Sunday Observer

Resolving issues: Address the root cause not the symptoms

As leaders and managers you are paid to resolve issues. Problems keep mounting and providing profitable and sustainable solutions have become tougher than ever before. Recognising the issue in its right context needless to say is of paramount importance.

When you have a problem at work, how do you approach it? Do you jump in and start treating the symptoms? Or do you stop to consider whether there’s actually a deeper problem that needs careful attention?

In other words, do you get to the bottom of the issue through a process of questioning to find out why the problem occurred.

If you only fix the symptoms – what you see on the surface – the problem will almost certainly recur and you will have to continue fire-fighting every time the problem occurs.

If, instead, you look deeper to figure out why the problem is occurring, you can fix the underlying behaviour, systems and processes that cause the problem.

Root Cause Analysis is a relatively new, popular and often-used technique by modern, successful business organisations that helps people answer the question of why the problem occurred in the first place and it seeks to identify the origin of a problem.

What exactly happened and why it happened? You keep asking the question ‘why’ until you arrive at the root of the issue. Then you can put in place measures to eliminate the recurrence of the same issue – at least not for the same reason.

Taking action in one area triggers an action in another, and another, and so on. By tracing back these actions, you can discover where the problem started and how it grew into the symptom you’re now facing. Determining how far to go in your investigation needs good judgment and common sense.

The right people

You need to analyse a situation fully before you can move on to look at factors that contributed to the problem. To maximise the effectiveness of your Root Cause Analysis, get everyone together – experts and frontline staff – who understand the situation. People who are most familiar with the problem can help lead you to a better understanding of the issues.

Identify as many factors as possible and determine which factor or factors led to the issue. Too often, people identify one or two factors and then stop, but that’s not sufficient. With Root Cause Analysis, you don’t hope to simply treat the most obvious causes – you hope to dig deeper to see the unseen.

When working with employees to solve a problem, it is not enough to tell them what the problem is. They need to find out or understand it for themselves. You help them do this by asking them thought-provoking questions. Rather than make assumptions, find out what, the person you are talking to, knows about the problem.

Half a solution to the origin of the problem can give you far greater returns than a complete solution aimed at fixing the symptoms triggered by the problem. 

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