As a business owner, how many of you end up spending a great deal of valuable time addressing the same issues over and over? Many of you can identify with this question and are looking for ways to make your operation run more smoothly so that you can focus valuable energy on those aspects that are critical to forward progress with your business. This is actually quite common in today’s world, where many feel too constrained and overloaded to take the required steps in reaching the root of a problem or weakness due to the amount of work one simply has to face in running a business. This article will focus on ways that you, as the business owner, can stop wasting valuable time treating symptoms and get down to the real root cause of the problem so that you can successfully achieve true problem resolution.
After identifying the root cause, or performing what is better known as Root Cause Analysis, you need to then implement actions to correct the problem (corrective actions) coupled with the implementation of actions to prevent problem recurrence (preventative actions).
An aspect of Root Cause Analysis and Corrective/Preventative Action implementation is that it addresses problems after they have already occurred. One way to take your operation to the next level is the implementation of mechanisms that will help you identify problem areas and respond to them before the resulting failures and issues can occur. Such activity is called Failure Mode Effect Analysis (FMEA). The next few sections will describe Root Cause Analysis (RCA), Corrective Action and Preventative Action (CAPA) implementation, and Failure Mode Effective Analysis (FMEA) in more detail so that you, as the business owner, can apply them to your operation. Many of you may already be familiar with the above mentioned terms from a technical standpoint; however, each one has valuable application in the business world.
Root Cause Analysis (RCA):
In order to stop treating symptoms of problems and start identifying the root of the problem, one should perform a Root Cause Analysis. It is only after you have identified the root that you can truly fix any problems you are facing and gain better control over your operation. There are many techniques out there one can apply in utilizing the Root Cause Analysis tool. However, the focus of this section will be a general explanation of the process so that you can seek ways to effectively implement this value added problem resolution tool within your operation.
Once a problem or failure occurs, it is critical that you investigate the event to determine what really happened. The investigation process should reveal not only what occurred but should also reveal why it happened. It is in asking the question “why did this occur?” that one can peel back the layers of symptoms and get to the root cause. Many make the mistake in stopping after the initial round of asking “Why did this happen?”. Generally, this will reveal a symptom of the problem rather than the true cause.
One should continue to ask the question “Why?” until they reach the root of the problem. At this point, it may seem like a redundant and, therefore, futile exercise; however, if you do not continue to drill down to the root of the problem, you will, unfortunately, only be addressing a symptom which will result in problem recurrence. By continuing to drill down to the real root cause of the problem, you may find that a procedure is not clearly written, a tool being utilized is not the right fit for the task at hand, software being utilized to capture and manipulate data is out of date and in need of revision, and so on.
- The Root Cause Analysis tool will greatly assist you in the value added effort of reducing negative productivity and frustration along with enabling you to maintain operational control, which will ultimately significantly reduce cost.
- One key to successful implementation of the Root Cause Analysis tool is the understanding that each problem is an opportunity containing the critical information required to eliminate the problem.
Corrective Action and Preventative Action (CAPA):
Once you have identified the root cause of the problem, you need to implement actions that not only correct the problem but also prevent problem recurrence. Many make the mistake in focusing solely on the correction aspect of problem resolution; but, in doing so, did you really resolve the problem? The answer is, “No!”. If you simply correct the problem but do not take steps to systemically prevent its recurrence, you have not truly performed problem resolution. Save yourself time on the front-end of problem solving by implementing both corrective and preventative actions.
Failure Mode Effect Analysis (FMEA):
Once you have established systems to effectively identify root causes and implement subsequent corrective and preventative actions, you must now focus on ways to prevent problems from occurring to begin with. One such method is Failure Mode Effect Analysis. The application of Failure Mode Effect Analysis is the evaluation of all of the potential failures or problems, the modes or ways in which failures or problems can occur, and estimation of how critical the problem effects are to the operation or organization. This “bottom-up” approach allows for the prediction of problems before they occur.
As a business owner, your energy needs to be focused on running your organization in a forward thinking fashion to assure continued growth and overall success. Implementing the Root Cause Analysis, Corrective Action / Preventative Action, and Failure Mode Effect Analysis tools into your operation can work greatly towards peace of mind that your operation is running in a state of control and that you are not wasting time addressing the same problem over and over. With your business running in a state of control, you are better able to focus time and energy on those aspects that are critical to growing your business instead of those needed to just simply sustain operations.
At Cogent Analytics, we never stop looking for ways to improve your business and neither should you. So, check out some of our other posts for helpful business information: