6. Quality: The Process Diagram and Root Cause Analysis
A process diagram helps us lay out kind of an overall picture of what it is that we plan to do. Who's involved in doing it? And most all we're focusing on how we are doing the elements that we need to do… from our organization, and how we're spending our resources to meet the customers' needs, their requirements, and their expectations.
How does the diagram or process help the organization? First of all, you identify what it is you do, when you do it, and find out are there gaps? Are there things you intend to do but you aren't doing. Or the things you're doing that could be improved or could do better. There are some times there could be duplication or redo that takes place.
So we want to… by using that diagram and laying out the picture, maybe it's taking too long to do certain steps. We begin to see those identified items when we're looking at that picture and putting it on paper on the wall, so to speak.
What questions do we ask? It's quite a long list, but some highlights are we need to ask about who are the customers? And who are the suppliers involved in this particular process? Other questions that we ask is "what is the process flow?" "What's taking place during periods of time, from the beginning to the end, but in the steps along the way?"
Another one is "What are the process steps?" "Who does what when?" and often, how? "What are the support systems that are involved with this particular process?" It could the use of computers, could be many things that are support systems.
And so when we lay all those things out, we begin to see the overall picture of the process. But we ask, are there steps missing? Things we should be doing we're not doing? Are there duplications? Are we redoing? A big one is the redo. We didn't get it right the first time, now we've got to start all over again… very similar to the kinds of things we're doing now. We might have to start all over again.
So [it's] quite important to find those elements and eliminate them, and get it where we go "start to finish" quickly. It's very, very common to find that, by going through and analyzing a process, that we'll find that we can reduce the time it takes to do that process, and the quality that we did, to do it right the first time, kind of step, that we could cut those process times in half, or even less.
Root cause analysis is a problem solving technique that answers three questions – Why did the problem occur in the first place? What caused the problem? What is a possible solution, one that reduces the likelihood of the problem happening again?
Oftentimes it's called RCA, or Root Cause Analysis practices, tries to solve problems by attempting to identify and correct the root cause of an event. Not the symptoms of it.
We use that root cause analysis to go back and find what are the items that are driving our processes, making things good, or making things bad, by getting to the core. Not the symptoms. The symptom is we have to redo, we have to redo. But, in fact, if we find out why we have to redo, we're getting to the cause.