Root Cause Analysis
I’ve been running a test pilot root cause analysis project. Root Cause Analysis is a technique to prevent defects by really studying a few defects, where the end result isn’t so much as to why they occurred, but how to prevent them happening in the future. For some background see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Root_cause_analysis.
Basically there are six phases:
- Problem Identification
- Data Collection
- Data analysis and assessment
- Corrective actions
- Inform and apply
- Follow up, measurement and reporting
For problem identification we are using customer reported problems that resulted in hotfixes being issued. Since these are quite serious problems that escaped the usual development/QA processes. For Data Collection we send a survey of questions to everyone involved.
For data analysis, we are using the Toyota 5 Why program. This is proving to be really intesting where you keep asking why 5 times to really delve into the problem. So far these interviews have been giving extremely interesting results.
It is a lot of work to perform this depth of analysis on a given problem. But if you really want to prevent them in the future, you need to do this, so you can intelligently change your process’s. Analysing these problems also makes you stop and focus on one problem and solve it thoroughly rather than just handling the dozens of problems that go by you each day as quickly as you can. Hopefully tackling these one by one will start to have a positive effect on how well our processes work. I guess its the usual mantra that a thousand mile journey starts with the first step (but hopefully with this technique, they are quite big steps).