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How do you run a root cause analysis meeting? – Effective Meeting Strategies.

How do you run a root cause analysis meeting

When things go wrong in an organization when defects appear in a system or an operation stalls unexpectedly, one of the key questions one must ask at the very start is – why? Why did this happen? Why did the error occur? Why did the process stall? Sometimes, the why will be obvious, the root cause will be known and the solution can be deployed.

On other occasions, this may not be the case, and indeed you need to conduct some root cause analysis work to understand the why. That is the essence of root cause analysis – identifying a problem, seeking to understand why it happened and acting accordingly to deliver a solution right for the problem.

In this article, we will explore what you need to be doing at the time of meeting to discuss this.

What is a root cause analysis meeting?

What is a root cause analysis meeting

When something goes wrong that cannot be explained, often a root cause analysis meeting will be called. The purpose of this meeting is to understand why, why has that which has gone wrong has gone wrong. Why did it go wrong at that time, why did it go wrong on that scale, and why did it impact the part of the process it did in that way?

The meeting is there to bring together those who know the process inside and out, those who know what happened (what went wrong) and those who have a vested interest in ensuring this does not happen again. They will also have some insight into why they think the issue occurred, where it came from and what they think should be done to stop it from occurring today.

At the end of this meeting, you want to come out of it with a clear understanding of what happened, why it happened and what the plan to fix it for the long term is.

Stages within the root cause analysis meeting

Stages within the root cause analysis meeting
  1. Gather the participants – Define the process within which the error occurred and the department within which this process sits. This will enable you to identify and deploy the right people, with the right knowledge at this meeting.
  2. Define what happened – At the start of the meeting, be clear about what has happened, when and where it happened, its impact and any fallout from it. You want to provide as much information as you can here to ensure the team in the room has all the knowledge possible to make an informed decision about why something went wrong.
  3. Open the root cause discussion – Once one person has defined where we are at this stage, open the discussion up to everyone in the room. Start off by saying it will be a free and open discussion at this stage, where people can put forward their ideas of what they think caused the problem, and give context to this.
  4. Use a tool – Pull up a root cause analysis tool to help sift through ideas. If the problem is relatively big and multidepartmental, a Fishbone Diagram is a good option. This enables you to categorize your potential causes. For smaller problems, or a series of smaller problems, diagrams such as the 5 Whys or Drill Down Tool will suffice. Run through this tool to generate all ideas in the room.
  5. Identify the root cause – From that which has been generated using the tool, identify the final root cause. This may involve introducing another tool to deep dive further, and a wider discussion to discount those potential causes deemed unlikely at this stage.
  6. Open the solution discussion – Once the root cause has been identified, open the floor to a discussion on what the solution could be. Sometimes the solution will be very obvious, sometimes a Manager will state they want to go in a certain direction and on other occasions, some further work may be required.
  7. Use a tool – If further work to identify the solution is required, use a solution selection tool or brainstorming approach to land on the right solution. This will involve a discussion, generation of a range of potential solutions and some justification of why.
  8. Identify the chosen solution – Once all potential solutions are on the table, whittle them down to one solution. This solution will need to be agreed upon by the majority of those in the room, especially those individuals likely to be deploying the change or are directly impacted by it.
  9. Plan the next steps – At a high level, plan what the next steps of this work will be. If the error is pressing because it is causing a ripple effect of problems across the operation, act fast. This will involve a timeline for a matter of hours and days to get the solution designed, tested and in place. If not, identify who further you need to engage with, how the solution will be practically deployed and the timeframe that sits around this.
  10. Close the meeting – To close the meeting, restate what the problem is, its scope and its impact. Run through how the meeting has gone, the key activities completed and the important takeaways. Restate the next steps on this and thank everyone for attending.


When it comes to something going wrong within your business, you need to act fast. An issue or an error once small or seemingly tiny on the surface can yield a much bigger impact on your operational performance. You need to quickly diagnose the problem, the extent of the problem and who is impacted.

When running your meeting, it is important also to ensure that all voices are heard, that any supporting data is analyzed ahead of or during the meeting to back up any claims that may be made throughout the process and that there are no ideas left on the table. Ensure the meeting has a solid agenda, and a structure (choose the root cause tools ahead of time) and contains the right individuals. Only then will you get the best out of your root cause analysis meeting.

Robert Chapman

Robert Chapman

Director and Author of Leading Business Improvement and passionate about all things Process, Continuous and Business Improvement. Over a decade of experience in delivering projects for my clients in these areas, as well as root cause analysis and the reduction of business costs.

Robert Chapman

Robert Chapman

Director and Author of Leading Business Improvement and passionate about all things Process, Continuous and Business Improvement. Over a decade of experience in delivering projects for my clients in these areas, as well as root cause analysis and the reduction of business costs.

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