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Analysis Cause Map

II. The Analysis - The Cause Map

Analysis is defined as breaking something down into its constituent parts.  Anytime we are building a cause map we are both analyzing and documenting a problem.  Two aspects of the cause map that make it so effective are the systems approach to cause and effect and that the cause map is literally a visual dialogue of the issue.  Our thinking and speech tend to be very linear and the visual map helps move us to a systems view.  Building a cause map for an issue is an improvement over just discussing an issue.  As much detail as necessary can be added to the map.  A cause map can easily handle multiple points of view on the problem.  When each person has their own point to make we can now acknowledge both perspectives and recognize that they’re talking about two different paths of the same map.  Anytime we hear someone ask, “Do you want to know what the problem is?”  We know that they are not giving us the problem as defined by the overall goals of the organization.  They’re giving us “one of the causes” for the map.  This “one of the causes” phrase is a common response from the facilitator building a cause map with a group.

It’s a surprise when organizations begin using cause maps at how well the group can accommodate different points of view – from the machinist, to the operator, to the business manager, to the engineer.  They may all be providing valid causes, but if they’re thinking right-answer on a systems issue they will have disagreements.  The cause map is a medium that allows people to put what they know up on the cause map and support it with evidence.  The cause map allows us to capture the cumulative intelligence of the group.  This is something that most organizations don’t do effectively.  There are excellent technology tools like Microsoft Excel, available to almost everyone with a PC, that make building and capturing cause maps extremely simple.

The cause map becomes an objective third party that asks a lot of WHY questions.  Each cause on the map can be followed up with another WHY question.  If there is a disagreement while mapping a problem people don’t point at each other they point at that map.  Challenges are directed at the map not at coworkers.  This simple difference significantly improves the nature of discussions.  People can add their specific causes so that others can “see” what they’re talking about.  Anyone can add his or her specific causes without even saying a word by walking over to the map and adding their causes – this can be very effective when using 3M Post-It? Notes.  The map also becomes a document that should be kept.  If people move into new jobs we don’t necessarily have to relearn past problems if we have been capturing and storing the causes on a map as these problems occurred.  For example, cumulative cause maps built over a period of time for a particular piece of equipment essentially becomes a failure modes and effect analysis.  Cause maps are also excellent troubleshooting guides and training tools for employees learning a new system or piece of equipment.