Root Cause Analysis Checklist


Quick Summary
Are you sure you've found the problem, and not just another symptom? Taking a methodical approach to a search for the root cause takes time at first, but saves time, effort, and probably money down the road.


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What this is

A root cause analysis is designed to help you methodically identify the root cause of a given problem or issue, by asking a series of questions, and by considering the problem from different angles. It allows you to challenge first-reaction thinking, and to consider issues and problems in light of current business realities.


Why it's useful

Root cause analysis is helpful to ensure that valuable time is not wasted by solving the wrong problem, or by developing and implementing solutions to symptoms rather than causes. From the initial conception of a project to identification of a defect or bug within the eventual solution, root cause analysis can be used to get to the source of the problem.


How to use it

  1. What's the problem? Start by stating what you believe to be the problem or issue around which you plan to perform root cause analysis.
  2. What's the method? Gather the appropriate experts given the topic at hand, and be methodical and objective in your root cause analysis, using this checklist to guide you through the process.
  3. What's the proof? Be sure to validate your findings to ensure you haven't just followed a hunch. It's helpful if you can find statistics or other clear evidence that you've found the right root cause.
  4. What's next? Now move on to finding the right solution for the problem you've uncovered.
About the Author

Sinikka L. Waugh, PMP, is the founder and head coach of the project management coaching firm Your Clear Next Step, L.L.C. Sinikka is an actively practicing project management consultant, known for consistently helping teams find innovative ways to leverage effective project strategies across multiple disciplines and technologies. With over 10 years in project roles (primarily program manager, project manager, and business analyst) Sinikka has successfully applied project and leadership expertise to improve project performance in a wide variety of industries, including publishing, education, product fulfillment and distribution, insurance, event and travel management, human resources, and financial services. As a coach, Sinikka's down-to-earth, "try this now" approach blends with her passion for helping others improve. Her energetic and engaging style helps make both the art and science of project management accessible to those she works with.

Sinikka holds a BA from Central College, an MA from the University of Iowa, and is a certified Project Management Professional through the Project Management Institute.


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