A root cause is the beginning of the cause-effect relationship*. Thus when working down the chain of causes and effects from a problem to its cause, a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) meets causes themselves being effects of some underlying causes and so on, down to the root cause from which everything about the problem originated.
According to wikipedia, a root cause “is an initiating cause of either a condition or a causal chain that leads to an outcome or effect of interest. Commonly, root cause is used to describe the depth in the causal chain where an intervention could reasonably be implemented to improve performance or prevent an undesirable outcome.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Root_cause
In “The Logical Thinking Process, A Systems Approach to Complex Problem Solving”, my mentor and friend Bill Dettmer defines a root cause as:
- *The beginning of the cause-effect relationship
- The lowest cause in the chain before passing outside the sphere of influence – the most basic thing one can do something about
- The first cause beyond the sphere of influence, where someone can’t personally do anything about
In the context of the Logical Thinking Process (LTP) and more specifically when working with Current Reality Trees (CRT), a root cause is an entity with arrows coming out but no arrow going in. In this context a root cause is not necessarily something negative.
So far for the root cause, but what is a critical root cause?
Critical root cause
According to Dettmer, a root cause can be a historical event of the past or a fact of life nobody can do anything about. A root cause can also be out of the sphere of influence to change. Therefore, in order to solve problems and remove Undesirable Effects (UDEs), the problem solvers must search for critical root causes, which are defined as:
A policy, practice or prevalent behavior that constitute the lowest level of causality in existing reality lying within someone’s sphere of influence to change. (The Logical Thinking Process, A Systems Approach to Complex Problem Solving, page 108).