How do I know if I've gotten to the root cause?

How do I know if I've gotten to the root cause?
It's always a good idea to assume that the problem statement or issue before you isn't the entire problem, or the whole source of the problem. Follow these steps to decide if you've identified the source of the problem:

Conduct a deliberate, methodical root-cause analysis. If you can't assemble a team of experts to help, at least try to find one or two others who'll review the problem and walk through a methodical analysis of all of the possible causes.

As you move through the analysis, be sure to ask a sufficient number of "why" questions. For example:

  • Why does the problem exist?
  • What might be causing the problem?

When you have answers to these questions, keep asking them about every possible cause, until you are certain that asking "why" one more time won't help. At this point, examine the root cause you've identified, and try to determine if it's something the business can, should, and wants to solve. You'll also want to identify any other problems that will be eliminated by fixing the root cause you've isolated.

Finally, once you've identified one or more likely root causes and begin to evaluate them, remember to ask for feedback to ensure that you're on the right track. Look for hard numbers or other solid evidence that you've identified the right root cause.

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