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Come to Light
  • Manufacturing, Quality, Service

Come to Light

Perform more effective root cause analysis and find solutions by defeating confirmation bias

Publication:
Quality Progress
Date:
January 2023
Issue:
Volume 56 Issue 1
Pages:
pp. 20-27
Author(s):
Moon, Jayet
Organization(s):
Terumo Medical Corp., Philadelphia, PA

Abstract

Confirmation bias creeps into what should be objective processes because a person tends to apply themselves to the process, problem and solution despite all attempts against it. Each person has individual experiences informing their actions continuously. To avoid allowing such a bias to tip or even overwhelm required measures of objectivity, especially in reductive (convergent thinking) processes, it's vital to include more than one person in the process. In root cause analysis (RCA), for example, five whys is an attractive method because it keeps coming back with reductive causal questions. In answering the questions solo, however, a person might be narrowing the list of possibilities unintentionally by applying individual experience and a single imagination to it. Including multiple experienced people in an RCA for a manufacturer of baby formula, whose containers were breaking and adding plastic to the formula, resulted in a proper examination not of the consumers' poor storage of the product but of the design of the storage containers, the real root cause. The original designer of the containers had overseen the analysis and therefore had ruled out the design of the containers—the real cause—as a possible cause.

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