Flip the Switch

Abstract:The nature of the cause and effect relationship has been explored at the philosophical level throughout human history. Although the concept that a cause-effect relationship forms an infinite chain of causation is well established in philosophy, it is not widely recognized in the engineering world. With this concept in mind, the challenge is to know when and where to stop drilling down through the infinite layers of cause and effect and identify a specific root cause. The leverage point principle, the Pareto principle, and the span-of-control principle can help identify the most likely root …

Access this article
Other ways to access this article

Social Bookmarking

Digg, delicious, NewsVine, Furl, Google, StumbleUpon, BlogMarks, Facebook



This is an excellent article with a practical approach to solution identification and selection. The two case studies also give good examples and should provide clear direction on scope and magnitude considerations. Flipping the light switch is a simple action to address a relatively light weight problem, whereas, removing the pump handle clearly was a good short term solution for one community, but, the deeper root causes of cholera had to be left to other scientists to resolve and finally eradicate from the larger community.
--Raul Perez, 12-31-2013


The article "Under Scrutiny" (http://ow.ly/1BqTT) was written in Quality Progress as a response to Gary's article. Read it and see what you think.
--Mark Paradies, 04-21-2010


This is an excellent example of root cause analysis.
If you have any more like this, could you please email them to me so that I may share them with my classes?

Thank you.

Kenneth Lewis
--Kenneth Lewis, 02-02-2009


Very Good Article and gave a clear picture on when to stop drilling for causes and start Action.
--Ramesh Ganti, 11-03-2008


Excellent article, simple but powerful concept
--Michael Hainke, 10-15-2008


A good approach to a thorny topic. Teaching root cause analysis versus "understanding what the ultimate goal is" is a constant struggle with clients; I teach root cause as part of internal audit training ... since an auditor is usually the first person to view an situation as an issue. I also support the concept of "once the audit is finished, the auditor can be used as part of the solution". He/she just can't be part of the verification of effectiveness of the resulting corrective action.
--Mark Revett, 10-14-2008


This excellent article addresses the dilemma of knowing when to stop analyzing causes using three simple principles. It should be required reading for all students of root cause analysis.
--Carol Loulis, 10-10-2008


Excellent perspective on root cause or cause(s) analysis. This is an easy idea but tough to implement to the optimum depth or ROI. Very good article.
--Tom Turnbull, 10-09-2008


Featured advertisers