1. What is Root Cause Analysis?
Root Cause Analysis is the process by which the cause and effect
relationships of an event (usually with undesirable consequences)
are analysed. The goal of conducting a root cause analysis is to
find a solution that ensures that the undesirable event does not
2. What kind of problems do you solve using the Apollo
Root Cause Analysis methodology?
You can use this method to solve any event-based problem. An
event-based problem is any problem that is caused to exist. There
are no "right" answers to event-based problems, only good, better,
or best solutions. You actually solve event-based problems
constantly throughout the day from the moment you wake until the
moment you fall asleep at night. Here are some basic
- I'm hungry: What should I eat for breakfast?
- I need to get to work: Which route should I take and
what means of transportation should I use?
- I need to get dressed: What clothing should I
Most of us probably wouldn't use root cause analysis to find
solutions to the problems listed above. But they are good examples
most of us can relate to that show that event-based problems don't
necessarily have right answers.
Here are some examples of more significant events:
We had an accident today that sent an employee to the
- What can I do to make sure this kind of accident doesn't happen
- How can I make our work environment safer?
Our customer discovered a quality defect.
- How can I make sure that we find defects before parts are
- How can I reduce our defect rate?
Today an event caused the power plant
to go offline.
- How do I increase the reliability of critical plant
- How can I maximise up-time?
We released a small amount of chlorine gas yesterday,
but it could have been much larger.
- How do we prevent this specific incident from happening
- How can we make our facility safer for employees and our
neighbors in the community?
A key employee left our company today.
- Why did the employee decide to quit?
- What can we do to increase our retention rate?
Our customer service department is
- How can we solve individual customer complaints?
- How can we maintain a higher overall service level?
Problems present themselves as independent incidents. But they
are usually part of a broader systemic deficiency. For instance, a
single accident can be part of a high injury rate involving several
injuries over a period of time.
These are only a few examples of event-based problems that can
be analysed with the Apollo Root Cause Analysis™ method.
3. Why do we need to standardize the way we solve
No organisation is problem-free. Systems we create are always in
need of adjustment - sometimes minor, and sometimes radical.
Problems show us where to focus process improvement efforts.
When we standardise the problem solving process, we eliminate
variability and confusion. When everyone speaks the same language,
we communicate more effectively.
Standardisation is a crucial step towards creating a learning
organisation. When people in the organisation standardise their
approach to problem solving, they become better at generating and
disseminating new ideas, as well as improving work processes.
4. What is a Root Cause?
The term "Root Cause" implies that there is one cause that
catalyzes an event. This simply is not true. Any event has many
causes, all of which are required in order for the event to
For instance, if the causes of any open-air fire are:
- Combustible material,
- An ignition source,
- And some action (such as a match strike) that catalyzes the
So which of these is the root cause?
The term root cause (as well as similar terms, such as "True
Cause") is somewhat misleading. There are actually many causes for
any event - each fundamentally required for the event to occur.
The Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology defines a root
cause as any cause that, when controlled or removed, makes the
problem go away. In the fire example above, removing any of the
causes prevents the fire from occurring. It becomes more a question
of which causes you control.
You have (potentially) as many opportunities to find solutions
to any problem as that problem has causes. Once you have identified
your choices, your focus then shifts to choosing the best
5. How do I select a root cause analysis
Once you are convinced that standardising your organisation's
approach to problem solving is the best way toward organisational
improvement, the next step is to pick a methodology.
ARMS Reliability is one of several companies whose business is
to provide training in analytical problem-solving methods. To
someone trying to formulate a comparison, the differences can
sometimes seem overwhelming.
The best way to discover the right method for your organisation
is to do your homework. Most credible methodologies have a book or
some kind of literature available that describes their process.
Read the literature and decide if the method makes sense.
Better yet, attend a training seminar. When you attend a
training seminar, you have the ability to test-drive the
methodology and challenge the instructor with specific questions
from your world. It's your money... whatever you choose needs to
work for you. Most of our clients begin by sending an initial group
of representatives to one of our public seminars.
6. Who should attend training?
Public Training Course:
Our public training course is our Facilitators Course 2 Day (See Course Outline).
Attendees are usually people who are responsible for evaluating the
Apollo method for wider implementation in an organisation. Ideally,
a company will send at least two evaluators with diverse roles.
This way they can take a broad perspective back to help make a
Other attendees include people from smaller organisations who
want to train fewer than 10 people.
Register now for the next
public training course!
Onsite Training Course:
ARMS Reliability offers three main levels of training:
- Root Cause Analysis Facilitators Course: 2 day class
- Root Cause Analysis Participants Course: 1 day class
- Root Cause Analysis Managers Course: 4 hour class
We chose these levels by examining the roles people play in
investigations. Ideally, there is a single facilitator and 4-8
participants who conduct the analysis together. They then pass the
results on to management.
- Facilitators: The ideal Facilitator is someone whose job
involves solving problems on a daily basis. Facilitators can come
from any level of the organisation.
- Participants: Participants are those who will be called in to
support an investigation, but not to run the investigation
- Managers: Managers are rarely involved in the process of
analysing specific problems. Yet they require special training in
order to understand problem reports as well as to provide effective
support to the program.
Read full descriptions of our training
7. Is a training program based on Root Cause
Analysis worth the investment?
There is little doubt that problems are very costly. But how do
you know whether you are getting a good return on your investment
in Root Cause Analysis? We use the following formula to help us
understand our return on investment.
Problem: Fractured Right Arm
Total Cost: $15,000
Cost of Analysis: 16 hours (4 employees, 4
Cost of Solutions: $2,000
The formula looks like this: Cost of Problem/(Cost of Analysis +
Cost of Solutions)
In this case, the return on investment is roughly: 417% =
$15,000/($1,600 + $2,000)
But did we really earn such a high return? Remember, no money
ever came in the door as a result of this accident - it actually
went out the door three times (cost of medical expenses, cost of
analysis, and cost of solutions). Yet this formula makes it look as
though instead of costing money, it actually yielded a stellar rate
of return. By this logic, all you need to do is maximise the number
of failures (especially expensive ones!) and your company will
quickly become the industry leader.
But this can't be right, can it?
Think of it this way... money is flowing out your door every day
due to failures, both large and small. The same is true for your
competitors. The playing field is generally level in this respect.
What will help make you the industry leader is maximising the
number of failures that you identify and effectively eliminate.
Problems force us to spend money, and as such are like forced
investments. But we get to decide whether or not we earn a return.
As long as people remain imperfect, we are going to encounter
problems with the systems we create - there is no way around
So we are left with a choice. We can choose to systematically
identify and eliminate causes of problems using the Root Cause
Analysis or we can continue doing what we've always done and hope
the problem doesn't happen again.
When you use the Apollo Root Cause Analysis™ method
to analyse problems, what you really accomplish is greatly reducing
the risk that the problem, or others like it, will recur.
Did the broken arm discussed above cost the company
Did we spend $3,600 to make sure it never happens
again? Yes, this is also certain.
So if we greatly reduce the risk that this problem (or others
like it) will happen again, we have reduced the risk of incurring
the cost of this problem in the future. You spent $3,600. But if
you spent it on the right solution, it is a very sound
And we haven't even talked about the fact that it's extremely
difficult to quantify the qualitative cost of a broken arm, such as
pain and suffering, or the potential for a much worse injury. Yet
even without calculating the value, the probability of incurring
some sort of qualitative cost is also greatly reduced.
The bottom line: It pays to solve problems the
first time. The Apollo Root Cause Analysis™
method helps to do this.
8. What kind of supplementary services does ARMS
ARMS Reliability is able to offer root cause analysis incident
investigation program development, implementation, auditing as well
as defect elimination programs.
We also consult and offer services for Reliability Centered
Maintenance and you can find more information on our RCM website
9. How can I get management to support the
conclusions of my analysis?
This is a question that frequently comes up in class. Usually
people ask this question when they have historically found
management less than enthusiastic about solutions they propose.
While there are many potential reasons for this, we like to take
the high road. Let's assume that:
- Management likes to make good decisions.
- Good decisions about problem analysis involve:
Effectiveness: does the proposed solution make
the problem go away?
Control: is the proposed solution within the
manager's control to implement?
Profitability: does the proposed solution
offer a good return on investment?
Getting managerial support is much easier when you show that
your conclusions are based on solid causal analysis. If all
effective solutions are effective because they control one or more
causes of the event, you need to show a decision maker:
- Which causes you intend to control
- How you intend to achieve control
- Why, if you are successful in achieving control, will it solve
- Finally, what is the return on investment
You may find that the decision maker has information to add to
your analysis that you were unaware of that may change your
10. I'm not technically inclined; will I be able to
use the Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology
Some people think that root cause analysis is an engineering
tool that is only useful to the technically adept. While some
methods are overly complex, the Apollo Root Cause
Analysis methodology is easy for anyone to learn and put into
practice. If you want to know if the Apollo process can help you,
read the following statement and decide whether it is true or
Everything always goes right in my
True or False? If you answered true, congratulations! Please
don't tell anyone your secret... you will put us out of
If you answered false, thank you for your honesty. As a bonus,
you can rest assured that the Apollo Root Cause
Analysis methodology will be useful to you. The Apollo Root
Cause Analysis methodology is extremely simple, yet
If you want more information about this, contact us and we will be happy to help
you see how you can use the Apollo Root Cause
Analysis methodology to effectively solve problems.
11. What problems should I investigate?
This question is critical because it illustrates an important
constraint that we all encounter - we don't have enough time to
solve every problem. Therefore, it is crucial that we create a
system that tells us when to move forward with an investigation and
when not to.
ARMS Reliability can help you develop a set of threshold
criteria that will be used to trigger an analysis. These criteria
are specific to your organisation. They derive directly from your
strategic goals. They also depend upon the resources you have
committed to conducting investigations.
12. Is there software available to complete my
Yes, the software is called RealityCharting®, please click here for more
13. What do I do if my RCA team members are
located in remote locations?
In today's world, we often find ourselves hundreds or thousands
of miles away from our team members. This can make conducting an
investigation challenging, but not impossible.
With the help of RealityCharting®, you can formulate the
analysis electronically. The resulting RealityChart® can then be
emailed to others on the team for review. Also, there are many
software solutions available that allow collaboration in real-time
over the web.
14. Will ARMS Reliability deliver training at my
Absolutely! Most of our business involves training at the
customer's site throughout the world.
15. Will ARMS Reliability conduct an investigation
for our company?
We offer facilitation services as well as root cause analysis
program development, implementation and auditing
16. How do I obtain pricing information for a
training course at my site?
A variety of options for training from online to classroom and
blended training are available. Please contact us if you
would like to obtain a quote or contact our nearest regional
North America - +1 512 795 5291
Latin America - +1 512 795 5291
Australia/Asia - +61 3 5255 5357
Europe & Middle East - +44 1484 505
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
17. What would my first steps be in setting up a
program based on Root Cause Analysis for my organization?
We offer extensive assistance in developing a custom Root Cause Analysis based
program to meet your specific goals.
18. Does ARMS Reliability train in foreign
We can deliver training courses in English, Spanish, Portuguese,
Dutch, German, French, Chinese, and Bahasa Indonesia.
If you have the need to train in another language, please contact us. We will be happy to discuss
translation and instructor development in the language of your
19. Can I use the Apollo Root Cause
Analysis methodology proactively to eliminate problems before
Many organisations today are interested in being proactive by
discovering and eliminating problems before they occur. The Apollo
Root Cause Analysis methodology cannot predict the future for
you, and you should be very wary of anyone who claims that they
can. However, an investigation using a structured root cause
analysis method will allow for the discovery of the "systemic"
causes that are at work for not only the problem at hand that is
being reactively analysed, but also problems that have yet to
If the specific "systemic" cause can be eliminated as a result
of the reactive analysis, in essence, this is a proactive step
because all future problems that would result from this same
"systemic" cause will not occur. These systemic causes typically
reside in the organisational culture, work processes, and
procedures, as a few examples.
20. We use Six Sigma; what would the Apollo Root
Cause Analysis methodology do for me?
Many of our clients are deeply committed to the Six Sigma
process of quality improvement. The Apollo Root Cause Analysis
methodology fits extremely well with a Six Sigma program.
Six Sigma, among other things, calls for the organisation to
recognise problems that lead to quality defects, and then to
analyse those problems.
The Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology provides a
powerful tool to help understand the causes of quality deviations
or process deficiencies. When you use the Apollo Root Cause
Analysis methodology, you can be confident that the
improvements you suggest directly attack causes of the problem you
are trying to fix.