Monday, January 9, 2012

Why Root Cause Analysis Process is Critically Important

A lot of engineering job involves finding root causes to problems with a product or a process. That is because finding the root cause of a problem is the key to making sure the right steps will be taken to resolve it. Most engineers are paid to solve difficult technical issues. The more he is able to do this, the better chance for him or her to grow professionally and financially. That’s why engineers would serve their own interest by becoming good troubleshooters. 

Acquiring the skills and habits to become a good troubleshooter does not come naturally, however. That is because it can take a considerable degree of effort and patience to find the ultimate cause of a particular problem.  

As an engineer myself, I have proven this to be true time and time again as I deal with technical issues that are complex enough to cause sleepless nights. The complexity, furthermore, demands patience and discipline that surely would challenge the faint-hearted. Getting used to giving consistent effort over and over without much result to show for it until the problem is truly fixed calls for emotional intelligence that is not freely available to ordinary people. 

Doctors and Engineers Have Something in Common
I saw the parallels with a working doctor who attends to a patient. I have observed this first-hand while my son was confined in a hospital due to his cases fever and vomiting. The doctor was perplexed why my son was having intermittent fever when all the laboratory tests came out negative. While we grapple with the problem with him, he was able to assure us that he is doing everything he can for my son. We did not have to take his word for it because he showed us how he was really being very diligent about all the things that can be done to find out the real problem. 

I believe the doctor’s attitude was not only reassuring to us being his customer but also effective in his work as a trouble shooter of illnesses. I realized the importance of speaking with your customers when a problem is being handled just as he talked to us to ease our apprehensions. The customer should be informed of all the developments, current activities and the plans that will be carried out in the near future. For good measure, the troubleshooter (engineer or doctor) can add what he intends to do in the event that the problem would prove to be beyond his capability to solve.

Parenting and Schooling
When I think about this, I am also reminded of how I would want to shape the thinking process of my kids. I do not want them to grow-up and get educated for the sake of knowing. My ultimate desire is for them to learn how to solve problems that they take full responsibility for. Giving them the technical knowledge and skills through their schooling will be necessary as tools to be used to solve problems. It should not be construed as an end in itself but a means to get things done as they face real challenges in the future. They would know that every challenge brings opportunities that should not be wasted.

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