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The problem analysis is used to find the root cause to the onset of a problem.

Introduction

The problem analysis is used to find the root cause to the onset of a problem. It allows you to search for the relevant information and to guide the search to the root cause.

The two principles

A standard is identified and we know how to compare it to the problematic situation.

In the majority of cases, the cause of a problem is related to a change that has caused an adverse effect.

Step 1: Define the problem

The analysis of an issue begins with the definition of the problem. In the Kepner Tregoe methodology, and as in most others (8D, PDCA…), this step is crucial to achieve good results. The challenge is to define the subject as well as the measure that qualifies the problem, the so-called Goal Question Metric (GQM). This step is identical to the definition of the Business Case and the Problem Statement used in the DMAIC Project charter.

We will describe the problem in one or two sentences and that is encrypted. For example, we can define an email problem like this:

The email sending system broke down after the 3rd engineer team installed the soft XXX on the YYY Exchange Server

Step 2: Describe the problem

The challenge of this step is to collect and analyze the information needed to identify the right root cause. This through the observation and description of the problem encountered. To do this, the method developed by the creators is to rely on a 5W2H crossed with is/is not.

This notion of is/is not intended to not scatter and more quickly target the cause. More precisely, and this to avoid however not taking into account certain criteria, the creators of the method indicates ” may be, but is not “.

Step 3: List possible causes

As we mentioned above, the hypothesis used by the method is that most of the problems arose as a result of any change. To identify it, the method asks to add a column that is the difference. Indeed, for each item listed previously, we look for if there has been a difference in relation to a classic situation or simply a difference (team change, after cleaning…).

Then, we list all potential causes based on the fact that the underlying assumption is that the cause is based on the difference between two situations.

Is

Is not

Difference

Potential Cause

What

What’s the big deal?

What is not the problem?

What is the difference?

What is the possible cause?

When

When the problem appeared?

When was the first discovered?

When the problem could not appear?

When was the last discovered?

What is the time difference?

What is the difference between the time between the first and the last?

What is the possible cause?

Where

Where did the problem take place?

Where did the problem take place?

What is the difference?

What is the possible cause?

Who

Who discovered the problem?

Who has not discovered the problem?

What is the difference?

What is the possible cause?

How How are units affected? How are they not affected? What is the difference? What is the possible cause?

How many

How many units have been impacted?

How many units have not been impacted?

What is the difference?

What is the possible cause?

Step 4 – Test the causes

At this level the challenge is to know what is the hypothesis that would enable the potential cause to be validated. We’re going to have to answer the following question:

If ____ is the cause of the problem of ____, how can it explain the information is and is not?

For example, if a potential cause of the problem is the Exchange server has a problem, then this assumption is only valid if there is only the problem with that server.

Then one comes to put a level of probability for this cause: probably, maybe and probably not.

Step 5 – Check the most probable cause

For the most probable cause (or causes), they will be confronted via a contradiction matrix to the elements of the description of the problem. In other words, does the cause that we have identified as highly probable, can it respond to the situation that we have described in the initial matrix.

Does our cause correspond to the description of the problem?

Is

Is not

What

Yes

No

When

No

No

Where

Yes

no

Who

No

No

How

Yes

No

How many

Yes

No

 

2 situations may arise:

  • Our cause corresponds to all the points of the description of the problem (we can put Yes in all the boxes): There is a high probability that the cause identified is the right one. We just have to validate it by doing tests.
  • Our cause does not respond or only partially to the description of the problem (the table then consists of Yes and no or of NO): In this case, there is a high probability that our cause is not the right one. We must then question the description of the problem if we think that the cause is probably the right one, otherwise we will have to look for another cause.

Source

C. H. Kepner, B. B. Tregoe (1980) – Rational Manager: Methods of problem analysis and decision making

C. H. Kepner, B. B. Tregoe (1981) – The new Rational Manager

J. Kosina (2004) – Quality improvement methods for identification and solving of large and complex problems

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