Every time we think we’ve got something figured out, we discover that we are missing a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that explains how it all came about. It’s always a challenge to figure out the root cause of problems, but it’s a vital one that we need to resolve if we ever want to reduce wastes and remain productive. Just how to do this and learn how to identify the causes of a problem are what we are here to explore in this article.
The first step towards learning more about the root causes of problems is to identify what you believe is the problem that you are facing. In other words, you need to see if you agree that you are in fact facing a problem at all.
How and Why of Root Cause?
Before we go on to identify the problem, let’s consider how different people come to understand issues. Most will believe that they or some of their close friends and work colleagues have been unfairly treated by some third party, or even themselves. They might have a grievance and their belief is that they should have been treated better, which makes sense, it makes total sense. However, the real kicker is always the how and why.
For instance, in an online discussion group where people post their problems, some people believe there is something wrong with their computers or with their email accounts, and some people are unaware of their email accounts and what’s wrong with them, while some of them are very concerned about something totally unrelated. Some people feel that they are at a loss to describe or to understand the issue at hand. Others are quite confident that it does not exist.
It’s a simple truth if we don’t know our processes we are unable to determine if something went wrong and hence the problem definition becomes difficult.
What is the root cause? It boils down to what we could call the paradox of understanding: how it is that so many people can interpret and understand various issues and events, yet not be able to find the correct answer. And so there are four things that you need to know:
The First Truth – Lack of Knowledge
The first truth is that you will never be able to fully understand where something comes from, until you fully understand how something that is not yet happening was caused to happen. Until we know this, we remain mired in a mire of confusion trying to figure out where an action or event comes from, and until we know this, there is no hope of having any clarity or meaningful comprehension of the root cause.
The Second Truth – Lack of Process Understanding
The second truth is that we need to understand how someone or something influences the causes of others and vice versa. The truth of this is that people involved in any task have varying degree of process understanding. This could be either their inability to understand the process or due to lack of essential training to perform their responsibility effectively. It’s a simple truth if we don’t know our processes we are unable to determine if something went wrong and hence the problem definition becomes difficult.
The Third Truth – Unwillingness to Accept Responsibility
The third truth is that we need to be willing to accept responsibility, and being willing to accept responsibility entails owning up to the role we had in the root cause of a problem. And once you accept that the role you will be able to see thongs clearly. It is important to acknowledge that something went wrong in the process. Once agreed, we need to identify to resolve the issue quickly. In life-sciences industry, an unidentified issue could result in an unsafe, substandard or contaminated product.
The Fourth Truth – Lack of Attention
Not every problem has a single root cause. In such cases, teams must work together to analyse the problem and identify all of its root causes. In addition, the existence of multiple root causes does not necessarily mean that the problem cannot be solved—it just means that more than one solution is needed.
Root cause analysis has been used in manufacturing industry for decades. It is a useful, and important, tool to help identify and eliminate the underlying cause of problems in the production environment. The process of a root cause analysis is really pretty simple and largely depends on knowledge of the process. People factor is the most important of all. Individuals operating the process must be thorough what are their responsibilities, what are the standards they need to deliver and recognition of a problem when necessary. Machines are build to make a product work. People operating the machines should remain alert and listen to the Voice of Process (VoP) when something unusual to the process happens.
To continue reading PharmaRead please login, subscribe or claim a 7-day free trial subscription and access exclusive features, full length articles, interviews, writing workshops, round-ups and commentary from the sharpest minds in manufacturing industry, quality controls and quality management.
Or, if you’re only interested in reading the content about a specific topic (manufacturing, COVID-19, and quality regulations), then you can take our $10 per month channel subscription offer, which gives you access to all our news articles and in-depth content on this subject.
PharmaRead brings fresh content, expert articles and useful updates in the areas of manufacturing and quality management.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on PharmaRead are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency or organization. PharmaRead articles are provided for information only with focus on global health, pharmacy practice, and healthcare systems in developing countries. Readers should seek expert opinion for use, implementation or application of this knowledge based on their individual circumstances.