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Cause Mapping FAQs
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Cause Mapping FAQs
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Cause Mapping Methodology

What is Cause Mapping?

Cause Mapping is a simple 3-step problem-solving process for defining, analyzing, and solving any type of problem. Cause Mapping is an extremely effective method of root cause analysis that is also used for process improvement and Six Sigma initiatives.

What is a Cause Map?

A Cause Map is a visual representation of the cause-and-effect relationships that contribute to a problem. The construction of the Cause Map provides a process for the analysis of the problem. The cause and effect map shows how all of the causes work together to create the problem.

What is the basis for Cause Mapping?

Cause Mapping is based on three powerful principles: systems thinking, cause-and-effect, and visual communication. These three principles together provide a clear understanding of the Cause Mapping approach to effective root cause analysis.

Why is Cause Mapping effective?

Cause Mapping is particularly effective because it is so simple. The Cause Mapping process is based on sound principles so there is no new terminology or acronyms to learn. People learn the very basics of analysis. They learn that investigating or troubleshooting a complex problem means breaking it down into its basic cause-and-effect relationships.

What is root cause analysis?

Root cause analysis refers to the process of getting to the root of a problem in order to solve it for good, rather than focusing on the symptom of the problem. The Cause Mapping approach to root cause analysis demonstrates that the root is actually a system of causes, any one of which has possible solutions that can prevent the problem from occurring. Many organizations mistakenly try to identify the single root cause of a problem. Cause Mapping is the process of identifying the system of causes for a given problem and then finding effective solutions for those causes.

Is Cause Mapping used for simple or complex problems?

Because Cause Mapping is based on systems thinking, it can be scaled to whatever level of detail is required. For this reason, Cause Mapping can be used to troubleshoot day-to-day issues as well as investigate extremely complex problems that require very thorough and clear documentation.

How is Cause Mapping different from conventional root cause analysis?

Most organizations consider root cause analysis to be a search for the root cause or root causes of a problem. Cause Mapping focuses on finding specific solutions to preventing problems by matching them to specific causes. Cause Mapping identifies the system of causes for a problem to reveal all of the possible solutions. The best solutions are selected from the possible solutions identified. The output of the Cause Mapping process is specific actions to prevent problem reoccurrence.

How can a Cause Map improve communication?

A Cause Map captures all of the causes identified by the people with first-hand information to create a complete picture of the problem. This not only improves the way people communicate when working a problem, it is also a significant improvement in the way organizations document and share information related to problems. Each problem analysis should grow the experience of those involved to help create organization focused on learning and prevention.

What is the most common feedback on Cause Mapping?

The most frequent comments regarding Cause Mapping are that it is extremely simple and very effective. By focusing on basic principles and eliminating unnecessary terminology and acronyms, Cause Mapping is widely viewed as a very effective methodology that is easy to learn, teach, apply, and implement.

Does Cause Mapping require special software or materials?

Cause Mapping is about understanding fundamental cause-and-effect relationships. It can be documented with pen and paper, using Post-it notes on a wall in a group situation, or it can be captured electronically in a variety of readily available software tools. At its core, Cause Mapping affects the way people think about problems, causes, and solutions. It doesn’t have to be captured to be effective, but documentation is important for growing organizational experience.

Which industries use the Cause Mapping process?

The Cause Mapping process is used in a wide variety of industries, including petrochemical, refining, power, aeronautics, telecommunication, manufacturing, transportation, service, healthcare, education, information technology, and marine.

What kinds of problems do people analyze with Cause Mapping?

Cause Mapping is used for all different types of problems within an organization, including operations problems, safety incidents, environmental issues, manufacturing deficiencies, equipment failures, late deliveries, unclear work practices, ineffective communication, poor customer satisfaction, low sales, and missed service levels.

Why does Cause Mapping apply to so many different problems?

Cause Mapping is universally applicable because it is based on the principle of cause-and-effect. The cause-and-effect principle does not change from problem to problem -- it is a constant. There are no problems within a company that violate the principle of cause-and-effect.

Who in a company uses Cause Mapping?

Cause Mapping is used by front line employees as well as executives. It is also used by managers, supervisors, engineers, analysts, and technicians. Because Cause Mapping is based on cause-and-effect principles, a consistent problem-solving methodology for defining, analyzing, and solving problems can be applied across an organization -- regardless of department or group. Individuals who specialize in investigating specific problems also find the Cause Mapping process particularly helpful.

Why is a cause-and-effect approach important to problem solving?

Cause-and-effect is the basis of all problem solving. Organizations without a bias for cause-and-effect analysis supported with evidence waste significant time on speculation, opinion, and incomplete analyses. Using a cause and effect map is the opposite of the “stuff just happens” mentality.

How much detail is included in the Cause Map?

The amount of detail for a particular analysis is always dictated by the impact the problem has had on the overall goals of the company. Problems with a more significant impact on the overall goals require a more detailed analysis than problems with less impact.

Cause Mapping Training

How long is Cause Mapping training?

The basic Cause Mapping workshop, Cause Mapping for Facilitators is two days long. The two-day workshop prepares attendees to apply the Cause Mapping process in their workgroup. We also offer the three-day Cause Mapping for Facilitators + Documentation that adds a third day to focus on documenting your investigation. ThinkReliability is very focused on having people practice what they learn in the workshop in their day-to-day role. As people’s proficiency in the Cause Mapping process improves, additional materials and advanced training is available. View our full offerings of Private Workshops and open enrollment Public Workshops.

What does Cause Mapping training cost?

While Cause Mapping is the simplest, most effective approach to root cause analysis, it is also the most competitively priced training program in the market. Request a quote to bring the Cause Mapping workshop to your facility, or attend a Public Workshop in a city near you.

Does everyone need to be trained?

Cause Mapping doesn’t have to be a corporate-wide approach to be effective. One person in an organization can apply Cause Mapping on a single problem. Demonstrating results on just one problem is an effective way to grow the approach across an entire group, department, or organization. Many companies consider Cause Mapping to be their corporate approach to analyzing, documenting, communicating, and solving problems.

Should managers learn Cause Mapping?

Training individuals to lead and participate in Cause Mapping is important. It is equally important to have managers who are familiar with the Cause Mapping process. When managers set expectations for problems to be broken down into specific cause-and-effect relationships, the problem-solving capability and culture of an organization changes. Learn about our High Reliability Leadership Session.

Cause Mapping Facilitation

What does a ThinkReliability investigation look like, and what do you need from me to get started?

Your people provide the details, and our facilitator will capture, document, and use the information provided to drive the investigation forward. Often, this starts with a simple problem description and any other information that’s been collected (event reports, email summaries, witness statements, etc.) The analysis will reveal who in your organization we need to work with moving forward. Most of the investigations are conducted remotely (via web meeting through WebEx) in small sessions, allowing us to quickly move the investigation forward and making efficient use of your resources.

You offer three different facilitation options. Which one should I use?

Surprisingly, the majority of the investigations we facilitate can be completed using the turn key solution. Our consultants are efficient at capturing the details needed to analyze problems regardless of severity, which is why we are able to offer this solution at this price.

Cause Mapping Workshops

View our selection of workshops specializing in Cause Mapping methodology and other topics related to risk and reliability — available as public workshops, on-site training, or online.

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