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26 Types of Root Cause Analysis

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Root cause analysis is the process of finding the starting point in a chain of cause-and-effect reactions. This is often used to determine the root cause of an incident for the purposes of problem management. The idea is that it's more effective to fix the cause of a problem rather than addressing symptoms.

Change Analysis

Look at what changed leading up to an issue.

Comparative Analysis

Compare a incident situation to an incident-free example.

Fishbone Diagram

A fishbone diagram is a template for identifying the people, process, technology, control, environment and design causes of a problem.

Pareto Analysis

The theory that 20% of causes result in 80% of issues. This seeks out fundamental problems that are the root cause of a large number of issues.

Barrier Analysis

Ask why there was no barrier that would have prevented the problem.


Ask why five times in succession to dig to deeper causes.


Generate lists of issues that are contributing to the problem.

Fault Tree Analysis

Draw trees diagrams of cause and effect. Each cause may have multiple effects representing the branches of the tree diagram.


Map out the flow of events leading to the problem.

Data Analysis

Analysis of data to determine where a problem originates.

Process Mapping

Document the steps and procedures in a process to identify problems.

Gap Analysis

Look for things that are missing or failing in a process, procedure or capability.

Capability Analysis

Look at the capabilities of a process and what capabilities would have prevented the problem.

Lessons Learned

Ask teams to review what worked and what failed in a process or initiative.

Appreciative Inquiry

Look at what is working well to prevent problems and whether this can be scaled to prevent more problems.

Fault Isolation

Test potential causes to determine which is the root cause.

Feedback Analysis

Analysis of feedback such as customer feedback for the root cause of problems.

Risk Analysis

Identify risks and evaluate their probability and impact.

Error Proofing

Designing problems out of systems, tools, processes and procedures.

Human Factors Analysis

Looking at what can go wrong considering the characteristics of humans and teams and identifying processes, tools, controls, training and principles that will reduce these problems.

Process Walkthrough

Walking through a process with stakeholders to identify the causes of problems.

Incident Analysis

Using information about incidents to identify root causes of recurring problems.


Observation of work processes to try to identify where things could go wrong.


Interviewing employees, customers and partners to identify root causes.

Reliability Analysis

Capture and analysis of reliability metrics and failure data.

Best Practices

Compare actual practices to known best practices in an industry or domain.
An important thing to understand about root cause analysis is that a root cause isn't always an error, mistake or problem -- it can also be something that is simply missing. In other words, a root cause can be something positive that you're not doing.
Overview: Root Cause Analysis
Determining the starting point in a chain of cause-and-effect reactions.
Fixing the root cause of a problem as opposed to treating symptoms.
Related Concepts
Next: Types of Root Cause
More about root cause analysis:
Cause And Effect
Fishbone Diagram
Five Whys
Human Error
Ishikawa Diagrams
Latent Human Error
Problem Analysis
Problem Solving
RCA Examples
Root Cause
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