What is Root Cause Analysis (RCA)?

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Quality Glossary Definition: Root Cause

A root cause is a factor that caused a nonconformance and should be permanently eliminated through process improvement.

Root cause analysis is a collective term that describes a wide range of approaches, tools, and techniques used to uncover causes of problems.

Free root cause analysis resources

Root Cause Analysis for Beginners (Article)

The Art of Root Cause Analysis (Article)

RCA for Beginners Part 1 (Webcast)

RCA for Beginners Part 2 (Webcast)

Solution Analysis (Webcast)

Wind Power Company Gets to Root of Icy Issue (Case study)

Books for Sale

The ASQ Pocket Guide to Root Cause Analysis

Root Cause Analysis: Simplified Tools and Techniques, Second Edition

Root Cause Analysis: The Core of Problem Solving and Corrective Action

Root Cause Analysis Handbook, Third Edition

The highest-level cause of a problem is called the root cause:


Root Cause

The root cause is “the evil at the bottom” that sets in motion the entire cause-and-effect chain causing the problem(s).

Some root cause analysis approaches are geared more toward identifying true root causes than others; some are more general problem-solving techniques, while others simply offer support for the core activity of root cause analysis.

By becoming acquainted with the root cause analysis toolbox, you’ll be able to apply the appropriate technique or tool to address a specific problem.

Excerpted from Root Cause Analysis: Simplified Tools and Techniques, pages 5 and 13.

Keep reading below to learn more about approaches to root cause analysis:

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Organization-Wide Approaches