Early on in our educational development, most of us received a simple worksheet that explained cause and effect. The importance of what causes are and the effects that come from them did not end in childhood but is important as an adult too, especially in the business world.

Knowing what the causes are for the issues in an organization is integral for implementing the right solutions. Whether your company is having production losses, safety issues, or equipment failures, determining the cause is necessary for eliminating the problem.

Overview: What is a cause?

A cause is anything that plays a role in leading to an effect.

3 benefits and drawbacks of cause

There is a benefit to cause as well as a couple of drawbacks that should be recognized:

1. Benefit 1: Problem-solving

Controlling causes makes problems solvable.

2. Drawback 1: All causes must be known

In order to adequately and thoroughly solve problems, all of the causes must be known. If you overlook any of the causes, you may miss some of the potential solutions.

3. Drawback: Causes are not always obvious

It sometimes can take a lot of resources to find what the true causes are for issues that arise.

Why is cause an important concept to understand?

Understanding causes is important for the following reasons:

It is fundamental

Having an understanding of how causes lead to effects is fundamental. It is a principle upon which all problem-solving methods are based.

The core of a scientific approach

Understanding causes is at the core of the scientific method and helps us know why things are the way they are.

Multiple causal paths

Knowledge of causes prepares one for the reality that an effect can be based on more complex ideas like multiple causal paths.

An industry example of cause

A manufacturing company keeps missing the quarterly production target and has no idea why. In order to determine the causes for missing the target, the team leader sets up a meeting where the staff can engage in a session going over the 5 Whys and other tools for root cause analysis. After determining what the root causes are, the team comes up with some solutions to try that seem like they will make an impact and allow the company to reach its target for the next quarter.

3 best practices when thinking about cause

Here are some best practices to consider when thinking about causes:

1. The 5 Whys

If trying to determine the causes of an issue, utilizing the 5 Whys is a good start.

2. Stop with the 5 Whys once you find the root causes

You will know that you have likely hit the root causes once there are no longer any “why” questions to ask.

3. Do not underestimate the value of cause and effect

Utilizing cause and effect is seen by some as an outdated model that is too simple for the complex issues of the modern world. Instead, it is believed that approaches like resiliency and emergence are preferable. The flaw in this belief ignores that cause and effect is the basis on which all these other lines of thought are built. Cause and effect is fundamental and straightforward enough that it often eliminates the need for more complicated tools.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about cause

What is root cause analysis?

It is the process of discovering the root causes of a problem with the goal of determining what the best solutions are.

What is a cause map?

A cause map provides a visual explanation for why an incident happened. It connects cause-and-effect relationships, revealing an issue’s causes.

Can there be more than one cause needed to produce an effect?

There can definitely be multiple causal paths that exist where it takes more than a single cause to produce a particular effect.

The necessity of finding the real cause of issues

Too many people have knee-jerk reactions to problems and go for a quick-fix approach without ever examining what the true causes are. While this may seem like it is addressing the problem in the short term, this approach too often winds up compounding the issues and making them worse than before. In order to truly eliminate a problem, it is vital to investigate what the true causes are. Only then can we come up with the right solutions for controlling a problem for good. The reason for this is that we must control the causes if we want to control a problem. This holds true in our personal lives as well as with issues that come up in our places of business.
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