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Root Cause Problem Analysis


Systems theory is most helpful in discovering the root causes of complex problems.  This is complicated because the root causes of problems are seldom obvious and therefore attention becomes focused on problem symptoms.  

The challenge in root cause problem solving is to distinguish between problem symptoms and problem causes.   Defining a problem in terms of its symptoms obscures the real cause and leads to symptomatic solutions that often produce short term results but fail to correct the basic condition.   

Problem symptoms are created by structural relationships among system components.  Understanding these relationships helps discover the cause of the problem and locate the points of leverage where patterns of behavior originate and can be changed. 

System structure produces behavior and only by changing this structure can sustainable change be made.


Symptoms of systemic problems

  • Recurring problems that seem to elude solutions.

  • Solutions to problems create other problems.

  • Obvious problem solutions produce non obvious consequences.

  • Problems thought to be solved reappear later.


Three Sigma's services

We coach executives how to use a root cause problem solving approach that shows how to:

  • Recognize systemic problems.
  • Distinguish between problem symptoms and problem causes. 
  • Identify the structural relationships creating the problem symptoms.
  • Discover the points of leverage where structural change can be made.

For executives who choose to develop a root cause problem technique using their own resources, the following model is available on this website and can be copied or downloaded free of charge.

We provide coaching on-site, by phone or e-mail to help or facilitate using this model.


Expected results

Problem symptoms disappear and do not reoccur (this may not happen immediately because structural changes often have a built in lag).

Problem solutions are highly focused and efficient.

Copyright 2002 Three Sigma, Inc.