• Bill Greider

Root Cause Analysis is Like the Electric Slide

Nothing looks stupider than someone doing the dance the "Electric Slide" solo. You know the one I'm talking about. 25 or 30 people run onto the dance floor at a wedding and start marching around and dipping their shoulders to the music. Even if you've never seen it before, you can catch on in about 20 minutes by watching the people in line next to you. Really fun to do and watch when there's a group. Time to shut someone off if they're doing it alone.

Root cause analysis is very similar in that it is most beautifully and artfully done with groups of people. An A3 team of 3-5 people is a good group size to do "5 Why", for example. For those of you who may not have done 5 Why, the idea is that in order to understand the root cause of a problem (and not just cure symptoms), all you need to do is obnoxiously continue to ask "why" 5 times, like a toddler. 5 is a rule of thumb. Sometimes you can get to root cause in 3 whys and sometimes it takes 7 or 8.

Let me give you my favorite "real life" example. Let's pretend that every once in a while, I find myself with a stiff, sore back. In this case, most normal people don't really care about getting to "root cause". What do you do if YOU get a backache? Maybe aspirin? A massage? The chiropractor? A hot tub?

Let's pretend I decide to do root cause analysis with a "team" (my wife, one of my kids, a friend) using 5 Why. Just for fun, let's see how many whys it takes!

Why 1-"Why do you get a sore back once in a while?"

(My daughter) Lauren: "Dad, it seems you've been sleeping on the couch more often."

Why 2-"Why do you seem to sleep on the couch more often?"

(My wife) Gloria: "Well it seems you and I seem to be fighting more often."

Why 3-"Why does it seem we are fighting more often?"

(My wife Gloria (again) (she seems to be taking this exercise over): "Well you never seem to remember my birthday, Valentine's Day, our anniversary, etc."

Why 4-"Why don't I seem to remember important days?"

My friend Fritz (who invited him): "Well, let's face it, you're not very organized."

Why 5-"Why is Bill Greider not very organized?"

Lauren: "Because you don't use technology to help you remember!!"

OK, so to eliminate a bad back once in a while, I can learn to program my flip phone to twitter at me when Gloria's birthday is coming! Instead of aspirin, massage, a chiropractor or hot tub!!! (Those are what we call "jumping to solutions). Think about it. Do you think I would have gotten to root cause without the team?

See, told you root cause analysis is just like the Electric Slide!! I think I'll go post that on Facechat.

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