A root cause is the original or “deepest” source of a given behavior. Most often the “behavior” you want to find the root cause for is an undesirable effect – i.e. a problem or error.
The term “root cause” means a “cause” (harmful factor) that is “root” (i.e. deep, fundamental or underlying), according to Wikipedia.
The root cause of a problem is important to identify when you want to prevent the problem from recurring or mitigate the effect of the problem.
A root cause is not immediately visible when dealing with a problem. One theory suggests that what you see is the problem and the symptoms:
- Symptoms: The result of the problem and what is immediately visible to you.
- Problem: The gap from the goal or established standard.
- Root cause: The reason that the problem was able to occur.
If you successfully mitigate or eliminate the root cause, the problem cannot happen – thus a way to prove that you have found your root cause is to demonstrate that the problem cannot occur when the root cause has been mitigated.
A root cause is a fundamental piece of knowledge when dealing with problems. If you do not mitigate a root cause when solving problems you are simply fixing the issue without preventing its return.
Featured image: Designed by rawpixel.com / Freepik