Ctitical Thinking Techniques Of Root Cause Analysis
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Critical Thinking Techniques Used In Root Cause Analysis
Root cause analysis is a common term used by investigators and analysts that means different things to different people. However, in its most literal sense root cause analysis requires the performer to systematically break down a situation into individual components or processes in a search for truth that can be supported by facts (Eckhardt, 2007). This analysis should be conducted in the form of an investigation into both the apparent symptoms of a situation as well as the causes that led up to the situation being analyzed. As an example, if performed correctly, a police investigation will use root cause analysis to first determine what happened, and only after the event is understood, would the investigator begin to piece together who (if anyone) may have been responsible for the situation that transpired. A proper investigation may lead to the investigator finding that while a cause to the incident existed, no fault can be assigned to an individual.
To perform any type of root cause analysis, one must by necessity use critical thinking techniques as he or she attempts to uncover clues that would assist in a determination of what occurred. The analyst must be willing to remove all preconceived notions and consider the situation as objectively as possible to avoid contamination of the investigation. Because of the need for objectivity, critical thinking becomes a tool that can assist the user in uncovering clues and facts that will later support a conclusion. Critical thinking by its very nature requires that the thinker be flexible and willing to mold his or her conclusions around the facts that are uncovered and not vice versa (Kitzmiller, Jan-Feb 2003, p. 22). At this point, many thinkers begin to create an outcome based on what they believe and not what they uncover. This presupposition creates problems in the critical thinking process and may produce a faulty root cause analysis. The result will potentially be incorrect due to subjective reasoning that clouded the investigator’s judgment.
As one progresses through the steps required to isolate a problem, it is important to systematically review and eliminate potential factors in the same manner that an electronics technician would troubleshoot a circuit board. This action requires the analyst to have an understanding of the components involved and the process being investigated. By considering, then discarding or retaining scenarios that may have caused the situation, the analyst will be able to narrow the scope of the investigation until the source of the problem has been uncovered.