When trying to identify the cause of an issue, follow a process that allows you to consider different alternatives.

Your Big Fix

Extraordinary Lessons To Improve Your Business

By Tom Welch

What’s the one thing in your organization that, if you could change it or fix it, would have the highest impact on moving you closer to success? Give that question some thought.

Now that you have an idea about what that one thing might be, how should you go about fixing it?

Experts who specialize in identifying, assessing and repairing problems often use the principles of root cause analysis. Those are some fancy words for a relatively simple process. Wikipedia defines it as “problem solving methods aimed at identifying the root causes of problems or events.”

It’s not always easy to do, but at least you can see that the concept is rather straightforward. The benefit of root cause revolves around the fact that if you get at the real underlying issues of a problem, you avoid merely addressing the symptoms, a process that never fixes the actual problem.

Also, by aiming corrective actions at root causes, the odds of that same problem re-occurring are greatly reduced. Viewed from an even wider perspective, the root cause process give you an opportunity to transform a reactive culture (one that simply reacts to problems) into a forward looking culture that solves problems before they occur or escalate.

Problems and real solutions are on my mind this week because I just experienced a situation that required some hearty analysis.

A couple Saturdays ago, one of those passing viruses that sucks out all your energy and makes every bone in your body hurt, paid me a visit. Lots of couch time and some pain relievers had me good as new by Monday morning.

On Tuesday, a few of the aches were back and I noticed some shortness of breath. By Wednesday, it was all worse including a tight chest and shallow breathing. Since those symptoms are not be fooled with, it was off to the emergency room.

Now, the real root cause analysis began. The health history, the EKG, the ER doc’s analysis and the blood work . . . all data gathering tools used to hopefully identify the source of my issues. All came back negative.

Next step was the visit from the cardiologist. Good news. He explained that, most likely, the passing virus had inflamed an area around my lungs or my heart and ibuprofen would probably reduce the swelling in about a week. But, he said, you’re staying in the hospital overnight so we can continue to monitor your blood work as well as run two more tests in the morning. He wanted to be sure that he had identified the real root cause.

Two more negative tests the next day increased the likelihood of the diagnosis. Five days later, the ibuprofen had solved my problem.

What a great example of studying the possibilities, narrowing down the causes and arriving at a solution. The lesson here is two-fold. When trying to identify the cause of an issue, follow a process that allows you to consider different alternatives. Then, when you believe you’ve gotten to the root, identify all potential solutions and select those with the most potential of filling the gap between actual and desired performance.

Even though the cardiologist was 98% sure that he had pinpointed the cause of my chest pain, he made it clear that there was still the possibility of a different problem that he may have overlooked. He was insistent that, if my condition did not improve or if it worsened, I contact him immediately.

So, carry out your solution and watch for results. If your fixes are not working, be prepared to analyze further because you might not have correctly diagnosed the root cause of your issue.

Despite the fact that my encounter was medically related, the process of root cause analysis is highly relevant to any business need. When Bill Wilson, a nuclear engineer, who has spent a good portion of his career in root cause analysis of process failures, human performance and organizational problems, was explaining the concept, he said, “While it is often used in environments where there is potential for catastrophic consequences, it can be employed in almost any situation.”

How will you use it to improve your organization?

Tom Welch, America’s Career Coach, is a leadership and peak performance expert. He is an executive coach to global leaders who want to accelerate business results. Tom helps people and organizations excel. Contact Tom at twelch@ricsearch.com or visit www.ricsearch.com

The preceeding article originally appeared on tcpalm.com

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