The Pro’s and Con’s of Using Pre-Existing Logic in Root Cause Analysis
By Robert J. Latino, CEO, Reliability Center, Inc.
Abstract: There has been an ongoing debate for decades as to whether or not the use of pre-existing logic for conducting Root Cause Analyses helps or hinders the analysis results. Does the use of such preexisting logic expand the thinking of the team members or does it lead the team to pre-determined conclusions and away from other conclusions not considered in the pre-existing logic? We will explore the fine line between these opposing views and see if there is a middle ground for consensus.
Root Cause Analysis/Methodology
This article’s intent is not to debate the definition of “root cause analysis” because if it did, it would go on indefinitely! For those readers who have participated in such discussions on various online RCA forums, you know what I mean. However, I think we can most all agree that no matter how you define RCA, that undesirable outcomes are the result of multiple cause-and-effect relationships that line up over time. No matter what tool you use to express these cause-and-effect relationships (i.e. – logic tree, fault tree, why tree, causal factors tree, factor tree, fishbone diagram, etc.), we nonetheless can agree that these relationships must exist for the undesirable outcome to surface.
With a lack of a standardized definition of Root Cause Analysis comes the ambiguity of terms related to RCA itself. What is a Root Cause? Again, the answer to this question suffers the same fate in the public domain as Root Cause Analysis and is not the focal point of this article.
Let us begin with the concept that flawed systems oftentimes adversely impact human decision-making. Flawed systems are the information systems in which we use to help us make better decisions. Such systems include but are not limited to our training systems, purchasing practices, procedures, policies, etc. For example, I may have decided to use too much lubricant for a pump in my area causing it to fail prematurely. The basis of my decision is that I am an operator who has recently been given the additional task of lubricating equipment that I operate. This additional responsibility comes as budgets are cut and when mechanics retire, the company is not replacing them. These responsibilities are shifted to operations without training operators in proper lubrication practices.
In this scenario, we have the following: