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What is a root cause?

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.

In order to find the root cause you need to make a root cause analysis. You can also try our tool The Root Cause Analyzer.

Conclusion

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.

Our interactive Root Cause Analyzer has been designed to help you identify a root cause to your problem.


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