THE AIE TEAM BLOG


Campus Leadership

But, What is the Root Cause?

By: Joe Marks

Your program or initiative isn’t going well and you aren’t seeing the progress you were hoping for – what’s next? Conducting a root cause analysis (RCA) is a productive method to get to the real issues that are holding up progress. The RCA will give real, tangible facts to work from rather than hunches or feelings that result in haphazard outcomes.

Three Tips to Conduct a Successful Root Cause Analysis

  1. Use a Structured Process
  2. Go Beyond Surface Level Symptoms
  3. Be Objective

1. Use a Structured Process

Processes will prevent you from straying from your goal. This should include collaboration and input from your stakeholders. There are different types of RCA processes like The 5 Whys and Cause and Effect Diagrams (a.k.a. Fishbone diagrams). See what works for you.

2. Go Beyond Surface Level Symptoms

Often, symptoms of a root cause can be confused for the actual issue itself. The unintended consequences are that the interventions and adjustments applied are focused on the wrong thing resulting in lackluster outcomes. For example, a program was purchased to impact student achievement. Achievement levels aren’t improving as anticipated. It’s determined that the program is the root cause. So, it’s thrown out and another program is purchased to replace it. Then the cycle continues. Going beyond the surface level symptom, can help you discover why the program was not delivering the results you wanted.

3. Be Objective

When tackling the RCA, it is important to remain objective. Stakeholder input is important to getting multiple perspectives and seeing the full picture. Don’t assign blame and keep an open mind. Also, objectivity allows you to make critical changes where they are needed and stop doing the things that aren’t working.

Reaching your final goal is rarely achieved without a few bumps and course corrections along the way. Get back on track and on your way to better progress with these simple guidelines to focus your efforts!

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