As I look at the title of this article I had a little chortle to myself. The reason for this is that I can recall the situation I was in when I learnt about Root Cause Analysis. As a result of my work, I was invited to participate in the training and there were various sign-up options.
My colleague went to the earlier one. I was due to go that afternoon. On asking him how it went he answered "Boring, quite dull really". I was looking for an opportunity to get away from my desk and listen to something that gave me a different perspective, so after arming myself with a coffee and my notebook I walked into the training room. Little did I realise what God would start to download to me!
So just what is root cause analysis?
Root cause analysis or RCA is a business practice where you look at a problem and, rather than think about the symptoms, you consider the cause. A well-known site beginning with W says thus "Root cause analysis (RCA) is a method of problem solving used for identifying the root causes of faults or problems.
A factor is considered a root cause if removal thereof from the problem-fault-sequence prevents the final undesirable event from recurring". The last sentence really struck me. It is possible to get to a place, in root-cause analysis where you can see what is causing the problem, remove it and STOP the problem. This is simple but powerful. Take for instance a business communication problem such as incorrect information being received and then executed. The symptom of the problem is that we have incorrect information. The root of the problem could be something else.
The five whys
When a child starts to talk the first word that he or she will generally learn is.. Mum, or Dad ( there are obvious exceptions to this rule ! ) And then, when they get a bit older the questions start to come thick and fast – prefixed with a "why". The assumption is that you know the answer and that it is, as far as they are concerned the word of God. Has anyone ever given an answer which has turned out to be untrue? Or are we now just saying to our children – ask Google!
Root Cause Analysis has a part of the method called "the Five Whys". It basically is exactly as it says. It gets you to ask "Why" repeatedly until you go from a symptom to a cause. Again the internet page with the name of W comes up top on the understanding of the fifth and most important "Why" "the real root cause should point toward a process that is not working well or does not exist". In other words, you move beyond understanding mere symptoms and push on to a cause.
When this becomes spiritual the consequences can be scary. I tried this once on myself and as a quick test I tried it without thinking too much about the answer – I just allowed my sub-conscious to talk to the questioner. The answer I got caused me to reel back in surprise. I encourage and dare you all to try at least one root-cause analysis of a spiritual issue in your life. You will be surprised!
This is big stuff
When you try the Five Whys you will get answers that you do not expect. Why am I feeling low? If you do the five whys on that question you may end up with a conventional symptomatic answer; I did not get enough sleep. When the Five Whys are executed properly however the "Why am I low" becomes "Why do I lack discipline". Do you see what I mean?
Something as innocent as feeling low>lack of sleep>not setting alarm>phone not near me not practising discipline. This becomes big when you start to give yourself the time and the freedom to ask yourself WHY?
This is NOT subscribing to the "everything is spiritual" viewpoint, but rather asking if there is something more than surface that we should be aware of in our everyday lives. When I have been self-aware enough to consider the spiritual dimension of my earthly habits, I have found myself enlightened and hugely comforted, because I realised that there was a reason why I did what I did. The phrase "deep-rooted" can sometimes feel a bit fake and dramatic, but when you consider things from the five whys dimension, the things that are occurring on the fourth or fifth why become your "deep issue" or your "processing material".
Conclusion... Have a bible..and a process map !
When I talk of the stuff above, this of course will not work for everyone. Not everyone connects with this and not all will find it helpful. The Word is the starting place of course, for any analysis or self-reflection on why we do what we do, or why we are the way we are.
Jesus is central to this and is always happy and pleased to reveal to us how he sees us and what we are like to him. The method above is just another "tool" to have in the box, to help us to understand ourselves better, to be wiser and smarter and stronger in our faith.
Little children have grasped something we need to understand. Sometimes the simplest questions are the best.
Rosie Robinson resides in Manchester where, in between feeding herself coffee and bagels she works for an international financial services organisation. She attends a lively church called Audacious, enjoys reading, running and watching films and slowly discovering life with Jesus.
Rosie Robinson's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/rosie-robinson.html