Monday, 04 October 2010 11:20

A Meditation on Root Cause Analysis (and Contest!)

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Mark Twain's book "Fable of Man" offers the following observation related to "root causes":

"Take the fly, for instance...A few have explained that there was need of a creature to remove disease-breeding garbage......[when] asked to explain what long-felt want the disease-breeding garbage was introduced to supply, they have not been willing to undertake the contract."

As a BA I am always thinking of root causes, and yet I rarely find a productive audience for the discussion, which is full of pitfalls, potential bad feeling and the illusion of understanding where none exists.

Example Pitfall 1.

Issue:  Customer Claims take months, even years to process

Because: Missing data and processing errors cause repeated return/rework

Because: Gary and Marcus and Monika and Eros (etc.) are sloppy, sloppy, sloppy!

To DEEPLY understand why this is flawed read some Deming and some Dale Carnegie.  Deming offers more Science, and Carnegie more Art, but both represent world class, proven high performance approaches.  'Nuff said, just do it.  You heard me.

Example Pitfall 2.

Issue:  Customer Claims take months, even years to process

Because: Missing data and processing errors cause repeated return/rework

Because: Existing computer system is doo doo.

This is flawed because the existing system represents the organization's best (to date) collective understanding of how to solve its problems.  Real investigation (requirements elicitation and analysis) would be required to clarify this claim.  How many of you have watched a working, but hated, system replaced with a non-working system?  I have - and stayed out of the project, but like any train wreck, couldn't take my eyes off of it.

Example Pitfall 3.

Issue:  Customer Claims take months, even years to process

Because: Missing data and processing errors cause repeated return/rework

Because: The current system is paper focused (EVERYONE knows paperless is better)

This looks promising!  Paperless is quite popular as an instant solution, in the same way that implementing client server, or relational database, or web solutions can be popular.  The flaw is that the solution is NOT the problem that we are trying to solve.  Can you spell tautology?

Example 4. Contest!

Issue:  Customer Claims take months, even years to process (this is a measured fact)

Because: Missing data and processing errors cause repeated return/rework (this is also a measured fact)

Because: Essential knowledge is missing early in the claims process.  Claims turn out to be complicated, and there are constraints on outcomes that must be understood early and often as claims are developed prior to decision-making.

Because: Claims processing was broken into a piecework assembly line process, with small incremental processing tasks and constant passing of paper back and forth as needed by each task, and each piece of rework.  This was believed to be the fastest, most efficient way to organize complex expert work.

Because: _____________________________________?

We will collect the three funniest responses to the above blank and share them next month, if any, per Mr. Clemens request, are willing to undertake the contract.

Thanks to all my discerning readers - until next month! Ideas or responses welcome at marcosferrer@verizon.net.

Don't forget to leave your comments below


Marcos Ferrer

Marcos Ferrer, CBAP has over 20 years experience in the practice of business analysis and the application of Information Technology for process improvement. Following graduation in 1983 from the University of Chicago, Mr. Ferrer joined IBM in Chicago, where he worked on requirements and systems implementations in diverse industries. His recent projects include working requirements for the Veteran's Administration, introducing BA practices at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, and creating bowling industry models for NRG Bowl LLC. In November 2006, Marcos Ferrer is one of the first CBAPs certified by the IIBA. He has served as an elected member of the DC-Metro chapter of the IIBA, most recently as President, and assisted in the writing of the BOK 2.0 test.

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