Workplace problems crop up time and time again. Chances are the issue you're addressing is more of a symptom than anything. Understandably, we don't always have time to do a complete analysis on the fly. That said, identifying the root problem goes a long way towards effective time management.

If you've ever had a leaky faucet, the concept is similar. Wiping up spills here and there will fix things temporarily without addressing the source. Meanwhile, a small leak can cause water accumulation, structural damage, mould, etc. Ignoring the bigger picture leads to more issues.

Another reason for the repeat is not understanding a problem's complexity. A sit-down with company stakeholders could help shed light on what's happening. You and your co-worker could face separate problems with the same root cause, although there's no way to know without direct communication.


Tailored Solution

Like it or not, root cause analysis isn't always straightforward. Here are a few personalised tips to find practical solutions. 


Name Names

The first step to solving a problem is identifying what it is. Remember that what you see may be symptomatic, so be sure to ask around for more information. Have your co-workers experienced problems of their own? If so, are the two connected? It's time to start sharing notes and gathering more information.


Dig Deeper

Identifying your problem is easy, although putting the pieces together takes time. Here are some key questions to jump-start your analysis:


What's the problem?

• When does it usually happen?

• What are the circumstances?

• Who's experiencing it?

• What else have you noticed?

What caused it (as far as you can tell)?

• Is the issue technical? Physical? Time-sensitive?

• Have you taken a closer look? If so, how far back could you trace it?

Are there any related issues?

• Have you talked to other co-workers or supervisors about it?

• Is it occurring alongside anything else?

• Have you noticed any patterns or peculiarities?

Have you tried to fix it?

• If so, what have you tried?

• Has one solution worked better than another?

• Have you gotten any other suggestions?

• Have you contacted other departments to help?

Working from the outside in is easier said than done. Try framing the problem in the following ways to help spot the source:

• Is there a systemic issue?

• Have you considered any relevant processes, tools, procedures or training?

• Have you or your team experienced a similar problem in the past? If so, how was it resolved?

Consider scheduling a meeting if you use these suggestions as a meeting checklist or already understand the issue. Use the time to discuss the problem as well as possible outcomes.


Zero In

Do you still need clarification about where the problem lies? If so, let's narrow your options down to a few possibilities. Start by choosing the most likely cause before brainstorming suitable solutions. Alternatively, begin with the simplest or cheapest fix before moving on to other options. 

Trial and error may not be your first pick, but only some root causes are apparent. Arrange a timeline, budget and plan with your team or supervisor to fix the problem. Calling an expert may also be necessary after exhausting other options.


Final Fix

If you have now discovered the source of the problem, it's time to create a plan of attack. Discuss the best solution based on the core issue and available resources. Be sure to outline the necessary steps for implementation, including who is involved and how much time is required. Loop in other team members so they know to monitor and report ongoing issues as needed.

In case of more significant problems, consider recruiting multiple staff members. Assign a supervisor to monitor progress or make suggestions. Even if you land on the right solution, implementation may go differently. Maintain strong communication and regular monitoring until the problem has been addressed.


In Brief

Identifying a root cause and implementing solutions are essential steps for any business. Whether you are interested in effective time management or clear interdepartmental communication, tackling issues early on is always your best bet.

From a practical perspective, there are essential steps to root cause analysis. Start by identifying the problem, digging up details and brainstorming potential solutions. Implementation marks the end of your problem-solving scenario to return to business as usual.