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Rooting for the cause

July 15, 2011

Several recent  requests have appeared to be for standard business writing courses. Or so they seemed. What the customer really wanted was to improve the way staff research the root cause of a problem and then express their discovery in a logical and coherent way. They complained that what they were getting  was a simple statement of what appears to have happened and a poorly expressed opinion on the cause. For example, the loss of a product lost in the distribution chain appeared to have an obvious cause. But the real problem was not being addressed.

The result was a  practical course that looked at the way things could  be done. It dealt with difficult issues such as choosing the right language to avoid apportioning blame in a no-blame culture. We can easily shy away from being specific and accurate if it means pointing the finger.  Applying root cause analysis (RCA) techniques help us dig deep. Language and writing skills help us communicate with those affected in a constructive way.  So while this was really a writing course there was a greater emphasis on planning and analysing, or preparing your case.
There are a number of good root cause analysis resources on the web. One I find to be simple and effective from experience is Mindtools’ 5-step Root Cause Analysis Process. The advantage of a process is that it offers an objective path: follow the path and you get there. Delegates are genuinely relieved to find a simple system to help them get to grips with this. tricky subject. Couple this process with the discipline of writing sensitively and well, and we have a winning combination. Now, instead of avoiding causes, investigators can dig down and derive real benefit for themselves and their organisatons.
For the Mindtools process see: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_80.htm

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