Introduction to the A3                                                               Page 6

Step 3: The Root Cause
Now comes the hard part. Root cause determination. There are two points to understand here: 1. There can be only one root cause and 2. We are trained from a very young age to not get to a root cause of things.

" I beleive Root Cause Analysis is one of the most difficult things to learn and the most difficult thing to teach in my experience. We all know how to do it very well when are children, but we quickly unlearn that skill as we become adults"

Ted Smith

You also need the group to define the facts of the current condition. For example, how often does the problem happen? How widespread is the problem? What are the risks of the problem? What are the parameters of the problem?  Be careful here. When putting down the facts of the problem, try to be factual and precise. Avoid using terms like a “we have a lot of errors.” We are having to rework 5% of the total work every day is a much more precise statement. This is another critical step in the process. Imagine our illegal immigration discussion. If during this stage it is determined that there are 5 thousand illegal aliens in the country would that lead to a different discussion and solution than if there are 20 million illegal aliens in the country? Of course, it would, so we should probably define these things up front before we solve the problem. We can’t do that if we make a statement like “There is too much illegal immigration.” or “There is a lot of illegal immigration.”

Some other examples:
Vague: At our current pace we will be way behind schedule.
Specific: At our current pace we will finish 6 days behind schedule.
Vague: Our productivity is bad
Specific: We currently have a productivity factor of 1.25. (It is taking   125% more-man hours to install things than what was planned.)
 Vague: It takes a long time to fill out an accident report.                               Specific: It takes 20 minutes of a supervisor’s time to just to fill out an accident report. This does  not include the time to investigate the accident.
Vague: There are too many locations where information is stored.
Specific: Information is stored in three different locations.

One of the interesting dynamics I have observed has been what I call the STOP/GO line. This is reached when the group is having the discussion about the current condition. During the discussion, they all make vague statements and then help each other define them and make them specific. As they are doing this the entire group sometimes realizes that the “problem” really isn’t that big of a deal and it was just a perception issue. If that realization is reach as a group, they have reached the STOP/GO line and need to decide to STOP or GO onto the next steps. It is ok to STOP if the group comes to the realization that this is not an issue. In fact, coming to that realization, is solving the problem. It is just solving the real problem, which was bad perceptions caused by miscommunication and misunderstanding. The problem-solving process solved that. It won’t always happen, but it does sometimes.
Be sure to take time to list all the important facts and causes. Use bullet points to write them in the A3. It is easier to write and more importantly, easier to read, which improves communication.