Product Management

What is RCA (Root Cause Analysis) and how to adopt it within a growing Company

You might have heard this word “RCA” or “Root Cause Analysis” and might have brushed it off as yet another industry jargon, but the truth is, it has positive and exponential effects in the long run for a growing company and we are gonna look at precisely that in this post.

What is RCA?

The Root Cause is “The Evil at the Bottom” that sets in motion the entire cause-and-effect chain causing the problem(s).

Root Cause Analysis Flow Diagram

Some root cause analysis approaches are geared more toward identifying true root causes than others; some are more general problem-solving techniques, while others simply offer support for the core activity of root cause analysis.

RCA is a problem-solving method which can be used in any industry or functional area to avoid recurring incidents.

For many Growing companies, the main focus area could be more on Marketing, Sales, Operations, HR, etc., But in all these functional areas, there is a chance for incidents which may or may not have an impact on someone or something. To understand RCA, understanding the term “Incident” is important. Any event which has a substantial impact or potential impact on someone or something can be considered as an incident.

Examples of an Event, related Incident & its Impact

Event Incident Incident Impact
Vehicles passing a traffic signal A car hits a person crossing signaleven when the red signal for vehicles is switched on Yes
Flight taking off from Coimbatoreand reaching Bangalore The left engine of the flight has malfunctioned and the pilot has maneuvered the flight safely to a nearby airport No
(But this is a potential incident which can lead to impact)

Let’s walk through some real-world incidents to understand more about RCA.

Example of a Real-World Incident


Many talk about NASA and all of its marvelous achievements. Yes, they are great, but as mentioned earlier, for any organization there is a scope of improvement. Ignoring such improvement areas would cause catastrophic incidents.


Now, tell me what comes to your mind when you see this photo of
Kalpana Chawla and her Crew members?

Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster

This entire team lost their precious life in Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster.

Would you believe all this loss was due to an ignorance of incidents happened before? Hard to believe, but it is.

In a post-incident analysis of Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster, it was found that the cause was due to a foam layer that broke off from the Space Shuttle’s external tank and struck the left-wing of the orbiter. This caused a hole in the left-wing of the orbiter, and during re-entry into the atmosphere, the damage allowed hot atmospheric air to get into the structure and destroy internal wing structure which caused the aircraft to break apart.

Following is an analysis of the incident.

Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster.  Analysis

The incidents about foam/debris hitting the space shuttle are already well known and had damaged orbiters, most noticeably during STS-45, STS-27, and STS-87. Such known potential incidents had led to even a more catastrophic incident like this one. If NASA would have figured this out earlier, along with an effective RCA mechanism, this incident could have been avoided.

Similar to this, there are several potential incidents going on in a Growing Organization waiting to blow as a harmful incident. So, the next step is how do we do a Root Cause Analysis.

Steps to Conduct an Effective Root Cause Analysis

  • Step 1: “Record” the Incident or potential Incident
  • Step 2: Analyze “Root Cause”
  • Step 3: Do “Correction” to resolve issues happened due to the incident
  • Step 4: Take “Corrective Action” to “Avoid Reoccurrence” of the incident

Key Points to be noticed in RCA practice

  • RCA is a “Group activity” rather than being done by an individual
  • RCA Should focus more on “improving system” than “penalizing individuals”

Where can you apply RCA?

You can apply RCA in the following sectors:

  • Military
  • Health Care
  • Nuclear Power Plants
  • Software Industry
  • In Your Life / In Family
  • Practically Everywhere

How to adopt RCA in a Growing organization?

  • Assign a Leader who is well versed in conducting RCAs for various incidents or who has interest in doing RCA
  • Gather volunteers who are interested in process standardization (usually Team leads, Project leads, Senior members would fit in perfectly)
  • Create a presentation explaining the following facts mentioned in this article and educate team members
    • What is RCA and why do we need it?
    • Difference between Event and Incident
    • Real-world example — Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster or any other well-known events
    • Steps to do RCA
  • Create an email id to which respective Team Leads, Project Leads should send details of any incident or potential incident happening in the company
  • Conduct a monthly meeting or 2 weeks once meeting to review each incident RCA along with the respective team. Guide team members on defining major elements of RCA including “Incident Summary”, “Root Cause”, “Correction”, “Corrective Action”
  • Establish a practice of explaining Incidents RCA in respective Team meetings.
  • Assign doing RCA to certain team members directly, encouraging them to get involved in the process.

Note: Incident Management Team members are volunteers from different cross-functional teams, mostly Project leads, Team Leads & Senior Members.

Try setting up RCA within your organization and do let us know the effectiveness of the same by leaving your comments below.

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