How Organizations Can Conduct Root Cause Analyses Without Indulging in Witch Hunts


What are Root Cause Analyses and How They Both Help and Hinder Organizations

As the name implies, Root Cause Analysis, or the process of determining the causes and the reasons behind an event or occurrence in organizations, helps them understand why it happened and how it can be prevented from happening in the future, as well as fixing accountability and assigning responsibility.

Root Cause Analyses should be done in a professional manner without resorting to finger pointing, blame games, and above all, without indulging in Witch Hunts.

Indeed, the hallmark of a mature organization is how it goes about Root Cause Analyses in a well set, thorough, and professional manner.

Of course, this is the theoretical aspects and often in practice, Root Cause Analyses end up in organizations and the power centres within them resorting to settling scores as well as engaging in scoring Brownies Points over their rivals.

While this is not entirely avoidable, it also is the case that Root Cause Analyses can be the methods to improve organizational processes and enhance the efficiency and productivity of the workforce.

Indeed, if done well, Root Cause Analyses can help organizations in becoming that much better at avoiding organizational goof-ups.

How Root Because Analyses Can Be Done in a Professional Manner without Witch Hunts

So, how should a professional Root Cause Analysis exercise be conducted?

To start with, any attempt to understand what went wrong and why it went wrong as well as how it went wrong should be done by Third Party Individuals and Entities as well as Agencies.

In other words, there must be a truly independent entity that does the Root Cause Analysis of incidents and events that went wrong.

For instance, if an Industrial Accident happens or a Project or a Product went horribly wrong, it is better for the organization to have someone or outside or someone who is not part of the project or the product teams to do the Root Cause Analysis.

Often, we read in the news that Governments appoint Retired Judges and other eminent persons to conduct probes and investigations into events and incidents that involved loss of life and property.

However, more often than not, these probes and inquiry commissions often end up in publishing reports that are politically motivated and which point fingers at the people or the entities that are inimical to the government and other powers that be.

This must be avoided at all costs in corporates and organizations and firms.

How to Fix Accountability in a Mature Manner and Taking Punitive Action

Having said that, the statement that Root Cause Analyses cannot avoid Blame Games and Finger Pointing as well as Witch Hunts is very much true.

Indeed, what is a Root Cause Analysis without assigning responsibility and fixing accountability?

Moreover, if the Analysis results in clear and identifiable mistakes on part of certain individuals, it is only natural that such individuals must be punished for their mistakes.

In addition, if organizations do not indulge in finger pointing, then the same mistakes can be repeated without change in behaviour from the individuals or the entities that made them in the first place.

Therefore, it is not that we are saying that Root Cause Analyses be Sterile. Instead, what we are saying is that they must be used an exercise in genuine process improvement and for organizational good and not become pawns in a larger Power Games.

Apart from this, fixing accountability is the Key Outcome of Root Cause Analyses and this invariably ends up in accusing the wrongdoers.

However, instead of Witch Hunts, there can be a mature introspection of what went wrong and how to avoid them in the future which can be then used to enhance organizational processes and procedures.

What are Forensic Audits and How Action Taken Reports Help in Organizational Success

In recent years, the term Forensic Audit has become popular to denote how Governmental and Private Sector entities can perform such audits to find out what went wrong and how to avoid them.

As the term implies, an Independent Audit done in a Forensic or a Thoroughly Professional Manner can indeed help organizations in actualizing the Changes that are needed for overhaul of the processes.

The saying is the Change You Want to see in the World encapsulates this very well as a Forensic Audit can be done in a neutral manner and the findings used to enhance the organizational efficiency.

Moreover, Forensic Audits can also be used to pinpoint the exact reasons for failure and since, Third Parties often conduct them, and they can also be free from biases and political agendas.

Of course, once the report and the findings are submitted to the concerned authorities, it then must be followed up with an ATR or an Action Taken Report that lists what and how the organization intends to do to avoid repeating the mistakes as well as taking Punitive Action against the offenders.

Indeed, this is the Way to go if organizations are to achieve process efficiency and maturity.

Learning from Mistakes

Last, it is impossible for organizations to not make mistakes and their real greatness lies in how they learn from such mistakes.

As the organizations move up the Maturity Level Hierarchies, they must ensure that they actualize processes in place that are repeatable without repeating the errors, standardize SOPs or Standard Operating Procedures, and above all, hold guilty parties accountable.

In this endeavour, it is natural for Punitive Actions and Finger Pointing and our main arguments is that there must be no Witch Hunts that vitiate the organizational atmosphere.

To conclude, Root Cause Analyses can become stepping stones for success.


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The article is Written By “Prachi Juneja” and Reviewed By Management Study Guide Content Team. MSG Content Team comprises experienced Faculty Member, Professionals and Subject Matter Experts. We are a ISO 2001:2015 Certified Education Provider. To Know more, click on About Us. The use of this material is free for learning and education purpose. Please reference authorship of content used, including link(s) to ManagementStudyGuide.com and the content page url.