Root cause analysis focuses on the underlying problem, not the symptoms of the problem. Root cause has been defined as, “The most basic, underlying, specific reason for the presence of an effect or result.”*
A number of techniques can be employed to identify root causes, depending on the complexity of the problem: Questioning the Data, Diagnostic Trees, The Five Whys, and Force Field Analysis are some of the group processes that can be used.
The results of root cause analysis can be used to plan or revise programs to improve outcomes or to identify successful programs that can be replicated in new settings.
* Root Cause Analysis webinar, McREL Mid-Atlantic, November 5, 2014