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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 occur.

For instance, if the causes of any open-air fire are:

  • Oxygen
  • Combustible material,
  • An ignition source,
  • And some action (such as a match strike) that catalyzes the event.

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 options.