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The cause and effect analysis technique is applied by first identifying the issue or problem to be addressed, and writing it in a box on the right-hand side of the diagram. A series of branching lines are then drawn off a central line connected to this problem box. Each branching line is then headed by a single source type that represents a major source or cause of risk relevant to the problem. Commonly used source types include:

• Equipment – The role of equipment (general or specialized) on the problem, including the lack of equipment, as it impacts the problem

• Environment – The role of the physical or contextual environment as it impacts the problem

• Finance – The role of finance (or lack of finance) as it impacts the problem

• Materials – The role of nonequipment materials (including the lack of materials) on the problem, including the quality of the materials used

• Measurement – The role of data such as performance or quality metrics as they impact the problem, including the ability to identify impacts through the data

• People – The role of people as they impact the problem, including issues such as capacity, capability, and culture

• Process – The role of organizational or individual processes as they impact the problem, including the lack of, or overabundance of, effective processes

Not all problems will include all of these source types, and some problems may be better defined using other major cause headings. Irrespective of this, the purpose is to identify as wide a range of potential sources of risk as possible in order to develop a wide-ranging understanding of the problem. Once the major sources of risk have been identified, it is possible to use techniques such as brainstorming or five whys analysis to identify root causes that contribute to the problem that relate to each of the headings.

  • [1] For further detail on cause and effect analysis, see page 56 (B17) of IEC/ISO 31010, "Risk Management – Risk Assessment Techniques." See K. Ishikawa, Guide to Quality Control, for a detailed explanation of this technique.
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