Privacy Policy


Welcome to Compliance Resource privacy notice.

Compliance Resource respects your privacy and is committed to protecting your personal data. This privacy notice will inform you as to how we look after your personal data when you visit our website (regardless of where you visit it from) and tell you about your privacy rights and how the law protects you.

Please also use the Glossary to understand the meaning of some of the terms used in this privacy notice.



This privacy notice aims to give you information on how Compliance Resource collects and processes your personal data through your use of this website, describes who we are, our practices and views regarding your personal data, how we treat it and who has access to it.

This website is not intended for children and we do not knowingly collect data relating to children.

It is important that you read this privacy notice together with any other privacy notice or fair processing notice we may provide on specific occasions when we are collecting or processing personal data about you so that you are fully aware of how and why we are using your data. This privacy notice supplements the other notices and is not intended to override them.

By visiting or becoming a member, you are accepting and consenting to the practices described in this Privacy Notice.

You have the right to object to us processing your personal data.



Compliance Resource is the controller and responsible for your personal data (collectively referred to as “Compliance Resource”, “we”, “us” or “our”, in this privacy notice).


Company registered number is 0960086.

You have the right to make a complaint at any time to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the UK supervisory authority for data protection issues. We would, however, appreciate the chance to deal with your concerns before you approach the ICO so please contact us in the first instance.



We reserve the right to make changes to the Privacy Policy and the Terms of Use at any time. We encourage you to check the website frequently to view any recent changes. Such changes will be effective upon posting.

This version was last updated on 24thMay 2018 and historic versions can be obtained by contacting us.

It is important that the personal data we hold about you is accurate and current. Please keep us informed if your personal data changes during your relationship with us.



This website may include links to third-party websites, plug-ins and applications. Clicking on those links or enabling those connections may allow third parties to collect or share data about you. We do not control these third-party websites and are not responsible for their privacy statements. When you leave our website, we encourage you to read the privacy notice of every website you visit prior to providing them with any personal data. We do not accept any responsibility or liability for the privacy practices of such third party websites and your use of such websites is at your own risk.


Personal data, or personal information, means any information about an individual from which that person can be identified. It does not include data where the identity has been removed (anonymous data).

We may collect, use, store and transfer different kinds of personal data about you which we have grouped together follows:

  • Identity Data: This includes your name and username or similar identifier, title, date of birth, billing address, website addresses, delivery address, email address and telephone numbers.We do not publish this information, we hold this information so that we can contact you about your listing, validate reviews, responding to your requests, customising future offers for you, improving our Site and communicating directly with you. We will send you service communications, confirm your identity and verify the information you provide.
  • Business Details: This includes the name of your business you are advertising, details of the products or services your business supplies, location and hours of work. This information is what will be published for visitors to view when using the site.This enables us to provide you with the best possible advertising service tailored to each business preference. You may choose to provide more information about your business (depending on your membership level with us), this is not mandatory however we will process the information in the same way when listing it on the advertisement. We need to contact you in order to publish your business listing and services you have requested, advertise your business on 3rdparty search engines, social media sites and other relevant business websites on your behalf.
  • Financial and Purchasing Data: We require your payment details so that we can obtain payment for any products or services that we provide your business with. Thismay include bank account details or payment card details, details about payments to and from you and other details of products and services you have purchased from us. We will contact you when processing payments and contact you about a contract renewal.
  • Technical Data: Thisincludes internet protocol (IP) address, your login data, browser type and version, time zone setting and location, browser plug-in types and versions, operating system and platform and other technology on the devices you use to access this website.
  • Profile Data: Thisincludesyour username and password, purchases or orders made by you, your interests, preferences, feedback and survey responses.
  • Usage Data: Thisincludes information about how you use our website, products and services.
  • Marketing: Thisincludes your preferences in receiving marketing from us and our third parties and your communication preferences.We will contact you when developing and improving our website and customer service skills. All emails will contain links to unsubscribe and manage your profile settings, so you can choose to subscribe or unsubscribe at any time.
  • Correspondence Data: We collect additional personal data from you if you contact us via email, contact form, letter, telephone or any other means. We may keep a record of conversations and correspondence for improvement purposes, to comply with our legal obligations, to deal with disputes or claims. We may sometimes ask for further information if you report any issues you may have with our site.

We may also contact you regarding maintenance of records, document retention, compliance with regulatory guidance and exercise or defence of legal claims and to investigate, detect and prevent fraud and comply with our legal obligations.

We also collect, use and share Aggregated Data such as statistical or demographic data for any purpose. Aggregated Data may be derived from your personal data but is not considered personal data in law as this data does notdirectly or indirectly reveal your identity. For example, we may aggregate your Usage Data to calculate the percentage of users accessing a specific website feature. However, if we combine or connect Aggregated Data with your personal data so that it can directly or indirectly identify you, we treat the combined data as personal data which will be used in accordance with this privacy notice.

We do not collect any Special Categories of Personal Data about you (this includes details about your race or ethnicity, religious or philosophical beliefs, sex life, sexual orientation, political opinions, trade union membership, information about your health and genetic and biometric data). Nor do we collect any information about criminal convictions and offences.


Where we need to collect personal data by law, or under the terms of a contract we have with you and you fail to provide that data when requested, we may not be able to perform the contract we have or are trying to enter into with you (for example, to provide you with goods or services). In this case, we may have to cancel a product or service you have with us but we will notify you if this is the case at the time.


We use different methods to collect data from and about you including through:

  • Direct interactions.You may give us your Identity, Contact and Financial Data by filling in forms or by corresponding with us by post, phone, email or otherwise. This includes personal data you provide when you:
    • Apply for our products or services;
    • Create an account on our website;
    • Subscribe to our service or publications;
    • Request marketing to be sent to you;
    • Enter a competition, promotion or survey; or
    • Give us some feedback.
  • Automated technologies or interactions.As you interact with our website, we may automatically collect Technical Data about your equipment, browsing actions and patterns. We collect this personal data by using cookies and other similar technologies. Please see our cookie policy for further details.
  • Third parties or publicly available sources.We may receive personal data about you from various third parties as set out below:
    • Technical Data from the following parties: Analytics providers such as Google based outside the EU; Search information providers.
    • Identity and Contact Data from publicly availably sources such as Companies House based inside the EU.


We will only use your personal data when the law allows us to. Most commonly, we will use your personal data in the following circumstances:

  • Where we need to perform the contract we are about to enter into or have entered into with you.
  • Where it is necessary for our legitimate interests (or those of a third party) and your interests and fundamental rights do not override those interests.
  • Where we need to comply with a legal or regulatory obligation.

Generally, we do not rely on consent as a legal basis for processing your personal data other than in relation to sending third party direct marketing communications to you via email or text message. You have the right to withdraw consent to marketing at any time by contacting us.


It may be necessary to collect and use your personal datato carry out any obligations arising from any contacts between us and you, notify you about changes to our services or for the purposes of our legitimate interests as a business. We have set out below, in a table format, a description of all the ways we plan to use your personal data, and which of the legal bases we rely on to do so. We have also identified what our legitimate interests are where appropriate.


We strive to provide you with choices regarding certain personal data uses, particularly around marketing and advertising.


We may use your Identity, Contact, Technical, Usage and Profile Data to form a view on what we think you may want or need, or what may be of interest to you. This is how we decide which products, services and offers may be relevant for you (we call this marketing).

You will receive marketing communications from us if you have requested information from us or purchased [goods or services] from us [or if you provided us with your details when you entered a competition or registered for a promotion] and, in each case, you have not opted out of receiving that marketing.


We will get your express opt-in consent before we share your personal data with any company outside the Compliance Resource company for marketing purposes.


You can ask us or third parties to stop sending you marketing messages at any time [by logging into the website and checking or unchecking relevant boxes to adjust your marketing preferences or by following the opt-out links on any marketing message sent to you or by contacting us at any time.

Where you opt out of receiving these marketing messages, this will not apply to personal data provided to us as a result of a product/service purchase, product/service experience or other transactions.


We will only use your personal data for the purposes for which we collected it, unless we reasonably consider that we need to use it for another reason and that reason is compatible with the original purpose.

If we need to use your personal data for an unrelated purpose, we will notify you and we will explain the legal basis which allows us to do so.

Please note that we may process your personal data without your knowledge or consent, in compliance with the above rules, where this is required or permitted by law.


To provide you with the products or services requested by you, and to perform other activities related to such services and products, including billing and collection; we may disclose your personal data to our suppliers and services providers, who perform certain business services for us. Compliance Resource makes reasonable efforts to limit its designated service providers disclosure of your personal information.

We require all third parties to respect the security of your personal data and to treat it in accordance with the law. We do not allow our third-party service providers to use your personal data for their own purposes and only permit them to process your personal data for specified purposes and in accordance with our instructions.

We do not pass on any of your personal details for marketing purposes.

We may disclose your personal data if we are legally obliged to disclose or share your personal data, or in order to protect the rights, property or safety of our business or others.


Whenever we transfer your personal data out of the EEA, we ensure a similar degree of protection is afforded to it by ensuring at least one of the following safeguards is implemented

  • We will only transfer your personal data to countries that have been deemed to provide an adequate level of protection for personal data by the European Commission.
  • Where we use certain service providers, we may use specific contracts approved by the European Commission which give personal data the same protection it has in Europe.
  • Where we use providers based in the US, we may transfer data to them if they are part of the Privacy Shield which requires them to provide similar protection to personal data shared between the Europe and the US.


We have put in place appropriate security measures to prevent your personal data from being accidentally lost, used or accessed in an unauthorised way, altered or disclosed. In addition, we limit access to your personal data to those employees, agents, contractors and other third parties who have a business need to know. They will only process your personal data on our instructions and they are subject to a duty of confidentiality.

We have put in place procedures to deal with any suspected personal data breach and will notify you and any applicable regulator of a breach where we are legally required to do so.

You are responsible to keep your website sign in password confidential and secure. Do not share your password with anyone. Information transmitted over the internet is not completely secure. We will do our best to protect your personal data, we cannot guarantee the security of your data transmitted to our site; any transmission is at your own risk. Once we have received your information however, we will use strict procedures and security features to try to prevent unauthorised access.



Otherwise, we securely erase your personal data from our systems when it is no longer needed.

We will only retain your personal data for as long as necessary to fulfil the purposes we collected it for. We take into account factors including:

  • Legal obligation(s) under applicable law to retain data for a certain period of time
  • Statute of limitations under applicable law
  • Potential or actual disputes
  • Guidelines issued by relevant data protection authorities

To determine the appropriate retention period for personal data, we consider the amount, nature, and sensitivity of the personal data, the potential risk of harm from unauthorised use or disclosure of your personal data, the purposes for which we process your personal data and whether we can achieve those purposes through other means, and the applicable legal requirements.

By law we have to keep basic information about our customers (including Contact, Identity, Financial and Transaction Data) for six years after they cease being customers for tax purposes.

In some circumstances you can ask us to delete your data.

In some circumstances we may anonymise your personal data (so that it can no longer be associated with you) for research or statistical purposes in which case we may use this information indefinitely without further notice to you.

We securely erase your personal data from our systems when it is no longer needed.


Under certain circumstances, you have rights under data protection laws in relation to your personal data.If you wish to exercise any of the rights set out below, please contact us:

  • Request access to your personal data
  • Request correction of your personal data
  • Request erasure of your personal data
  • Object to processing of your personal data
  • Request restriction of processing your personal data
  • Request transfer of your personal data
  • Right to withdraw consent


You will not have to pay a fee to access your personal data (or to exercise any of the other rights). However, we may charge a reasonable fee if your request is clearly unfounded, repetitive or excessive. Alternatively, we may refuse to comply with your request in these circumstances.


We may need to request specific information from you to help us confirm your identity and ensure your right to access your personal data (or to exercise any of your other rights). This is a security measure to ensure that personal data is not disclosed to any person who has no right to receive it. We may also contact you to ask you for further information in relation to your request to speed up our response.


We try to respond to all legitimate requests within one month. Occasionally it may take us longer than a month if your request is particularly complex or you have made a number of requests. In this case, we will notify you and keep you updated.



We receive and store certain types of information whenever you interact with us. The data we receive from your computer (such as browser type, country, time, which pages are viewed) helps us to determine what we can do to improve the user experience, track the site performance and statistical data but it does not identify individuals. By continuing to browse the site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

We use “cookies” and we obtain certain types of information when your Web browser accesses

We use cookies for a number of reasons. They can:

  • Help to improve our site and service;
  • Help to remember you and your preferences
  • Identify and resolve errors
  • Provide website performance statistics

A cookie is a small file of letters and numbers that we store on your browser or the hard drive of your computer if you agree. Cookies contain information that is transferred to your computer’s hard drive.

We use the following cookies:

  • Strictly necessary cookies.These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website, use a shopping cart or make use of e-billing services.
  • Analytical/performance cookies.They allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works, for example, by ensuring that users are finding what they are looking for easily.
  • Functionality cookies.These are used to recognise you when you return to our website. This enables us to personalise our content for you, greet you by name and remember your preferences (for example, your choice of language or region).
  • Targeting cookies.These cookies record your visit to our website, the pages you have visited and the links you have followed. We will use this information to make our website and the advertising displayed on it more relevant to your interests. We may also share this information with third parties for this purpose.

Please note that third parties (including, for example, advertising networks and providers of external services like web traffic analysis services) may also use cookies, over which we have no control as they are external to our site.

You block cookies by activating the setting on your browser that allows you to refuse the setting of all or some cookies. However, if you use your browser settings to block all cookies (including essential cookies) you may not be able to access all or parts of our site.



  • Legitimate Interestmeans the interest of our business in conducting and managing our business to enable us to give you the best service/product and the best and most secure experience. We make sure we consider and balance any potential impact on you (both positive and negative) and your rights before we process your personal data for our legitimate interests. We do not use your personal data for activities where our interests are overridden by the impact on you (unless we have your consent or are otherwise required or permitted to by law). You can obtain further information about how we assess our legitimate interests against any potential impact on you in respect of specific activities by contacting us.
  • Performance of Contractmeans processing your data where it is necessary for the performance of a contract to which you are a party or to take steps at your request before entering into such a contract.
  • Comply with a legal or regulatory obligationmeans processing your personal data where it is necessary for compliance with a legal or regulatory obligation that we are subject to.


  • Service providers [acting as processors] based the US who provide IT and system administration services.
  • Professional advisers [acting as processors or joint controllers] including lawyers, bankers, auditors and insurers based the UK who provide consultancy, banking, legal, insurance and accounting services.
  • HM Revenue & Customs, regulators and other authorities [acting as processors or joint controllers] based in the United Kingdom who require reporting of processing activities in certain circumstances.


You have the right to:

  • Request access to your personal data (commonly known as a “data subject access request”). This enables you to receive a copy of the personal data we hold about you and to check that we are lawfully processing it.
  • Request correction of the personal data that we hold about you. This enables you to have any incomplete or inaccurate data we hold about you corrected, though we may need to verify the accuracy of the new data you provide to us.
  • Request erasure of your personal data. This enables you to ask us to delete or remove personal data where there is no good reason for us continuing to process it. You also have the right to ask us to delete or remove your personal data where you have successfully exercised your right to object to processing (see below), where we may have processed your information unlawfully or where we are required to erase your personal data to comply with local law. Note, however, that we may not always be able to comply with your request of erasure for specific legal reasons which will be notified to you, if applicable, at the time of your request.
  • Object to processing of your personal data where we are relying on a legitimate interest (or those of a third party) and there is something about your particular situation which makes you want to object to processing on this ground as you feel it impacts on your fundamental rights and freedoms. You also have the right to object where we are processing your personal data for direct marketing purposes. In some cases, we may demonstrate that we have compelling legitimate grounds to process your information which override your rights and freedoms.
  • Request restriction of processing of your personal data. This enables you to ask us to suspend the processing of your personal data in the following scenarios: (a) if you want us to establish the data’s accuracy; (b) where our use of the data is unlawful but you do not want us to erase it; (c) where you need us to hold the data even if we no longer require it as you need it to establish, exercise or defend legal claims; or (d) you have objected to our use of your data but we need to verify whether we have overriding legitimate grounds to use it.
  • Request the transfer of your personal data to you or to a third party. We will provide to you, or a third party you have chosen, your personal data in a structured, commonly used, machine-readable format. Note that this right only applies to automated information which you initially provided consent for us to use or where we used the information to perform a contract with you.
  • Withdraw consent at any time where we are relying on consent to process your personal data. However, this will not affect the lawfulness of any processing carried out before you withdraw your consent. If you withdraw your consent, we may not be able to provide certain products or services to you. We will advise you if this is the case at the time you withdraw your consent.

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Explained: FMEA

fish falling out of glass

What is FMEA?

FMEA or Failure Mode and Effect Analysis is a tool for identifying potential problems, their impact and preventing them from occurring.

Why I should use FMEA

  • FMEA is used to help anticipate what could go wrong with a product or process and the effects of those failures
  • FMEA helps to identify the possible causes of failures and the likelihood of failures being detected before they occur
  • FMEA is a good way to analyse potential reliability problems early in the development cycle, making it possible to take quick action and mitigate failure. This also enables failures to be designed out and reliable, safe and customer pleasing features to be designed in
  • FMEA has the potential to reduce service failures, warranty costs, safety failures, product liability claims and reduces the need to conduct tests of expensive prototypes

When to use FMEA

FMEA can be used at any stage from design and manufacturing to testing and installation.

How to complete FMEA

  1. The people with the right experience with the product or process under examination should be involved to find potential failure modes. These should include the designers and engineers if possible. Customers and suppliers could be considered for alternative viewpoints
  2. Brainstorm – all the components, functions, processes and systems that could possibly fail to meet the required quality level must be identified. The effects and possible causes must also be identified and explained. All the information should be put into a spreadsheet along with details about the product or process under examination, the date of the FMEA meeting and those who are in attendance
  3. An FMEA uses three criteria to assess a failure, the team will need to assess the failure modes on a scale of 1-10 (1=Low, 10=High) for each of them:
    • The probability of each failure occurring – rank the probability of a failure occurring during the expected lifetime of the product or service (1 – Not likely to occur, 10 – Inevitable)
      • The seriousness of the effect of the failure – this encompasses what is important to the industry, company or customer including safety standards, legal, production continuity, loss of business and damaged reputation (1 – Low impact, 10 – High impact)
      • How easily the failure can be detected – the difficulty of the failure being detected before the product or system is used (1 – Very likely to be detected, 10 – Not likely to be detected)
  4. Calculate the criticality index, this indicates the relative priority of each failure mode: C = P x S x D
  5. The team should now adjust the FMEA spreadsheet to list failures in descending criticality order. This highlights the areas where corrective actions should be focused.
  6. Once the priorities have been agreed, recommended corrective actions for reducing the probability of each failure mode occurring or improving the detection of them should be determined. Responsibility for the corrective actions and target completion dates should be set.
  7. Once corrective actions have been completed, the team should meet again to reassess each failure mode to see if they have reduced the risk, if not, alternative corrective actions may be required.

We hope this has helped explain FMEA in simple terms for you, if you are looking for a deeper explanation, please feel free to contact us for more assistance!

Explained: What are Affinity Diagrams?

An Affinity Diagram is a tool used to organise large amounts of information into groups based on similarities or ‘affinities’ between the information. This process is often used to group ideas generated through Brainstorming.

Why I should use Affinity Diagrams

The Affinity process is a good way to get people to address difficult problems in a creative way. It is useful when people from different areas of the business who are knowledgeable about the problems form a new team. Their perspectives, opinions and insights are combined together. The team consider all the ideas without criticism. This often helps to break through entrenched thinking, enabling the team to develop a creative list of ideas and unconventional solutions.

When to use Affinity Diagrams

  • When there is a large amount of information to go through (generally more than 15 items of information) 
  • To organise the ideas generated from Brainstorming where people from diverse and unrelated departments come together to solve a complex problem

How to complete Affinity Diagrams

  1. Organise a team – made up of people from different areas of the business who are knowledgeable about the problems (generally a maximum of 6 people is beneficial)
  2. Brainstorm the problems – this is often best done by allowing each member of the team to write a single idea on a Post-it note then stick it to a board. (No attempt to organise the ideas should be made until all of the ideas are up on the board and visible to the whole team)
  3. Organise the ideas into ‘Affinity’ groups – every member of the team will move the notes around into related groups. This is done silently to discourage arguments and justifications. The idea is to go for the gut feeling and speed rather than deliberation
  4. Much more sense can now be made of the main problems facing the business and solutions can be created using other ‘Tools for Analysis’ such as Pareto Analysis or the ‘Five Whys’

Affinity Diagram Template

Affinity Diagram Example

Information about customer complaints to business X regarding service, product quality and price was gathered from several sources. The information before it had been organised is shown below on the left and once organised into ‘Affinity’ groups on the right:

Explained: Forcefield Analysis

What is Force Field Analysis?

Force Field Analysis is a tool used for listing, discussing and evaluating possible forces for and against a proposed change.

Why I should use Force Field Analysis

Force Field Analysis can help to determine if a proposed change has the needed support to go ahead. It identifies obstacles to successful solutions and suggests actions to reduce the strength of those obstacles.By knowing the pros and cons of any proposed change, you can develop strategies to reduce the impact of the opposing forces and strengthen the supporting forces.

When to use Force Field Analysis

Force Field Analysis is the ideal tool to use when a change to the business is proposed.

How to complete Force Field Analysis

  • Start by stating the proposed change
  • Draw a force field diagram
  • Write the proposed change in the middle of the page in a rectangular box dividing the page
  • Label the left side of the page ‘Driving Forces’, these are the forces that support the change. Label the right side of the page ‘Restraining Forces’, these are the forces that oppose the change
  • Brainstorm the pros and cons of the proposed change. Note the pros on the ‘Driving Forces’ side and the cons on the ‘Restraining Forces’ side
  • Ask questions about each force on both sides of the page to determine the score for ‘Driving Forces’ and for ‘Restraining Forces’
  • Score each force from 1-5, 1 being weak, 5 being strong 
  • The score should be based on the strength or importance of the force, the degree to which it is possible to influence the force and the number of people in agreement with it
  • Calculate a total score for ‘Driving Forces’ and for ‘Restraining Forces’
  • Once completed the decision whether to implement the change or not will be easier to make. If the decision is to go ahead with the planned change action can be taken to strengthen the driving forces and weaken the restraining forces so that the change is more successful

Force Field Analysis Template

Force Field Analysis Example

Explained: Root cause analysis

The key to root cause analysis is making sure it’s controlled by a robust process – and creating a positive action plan to prevent recurrence.

Root cause analysis is a process. It is neither haphazard nor uncontrolled. This understanding is essential to effective implementation.

Once it is perceived and controlled in the same manner as other processes in the organisation’s quality management system, it is possible to implement root cause analysis effectively.

Root cause analysis creates the input to corrective action planning by establishing requirements. Without thorough and well-controlled investigation of the root cause of a given problem, any attempt at corrective action is doomed. It would be like manufacturing a product without fully developing the specifications needed to fulfil the design requirements.

The Purpose

Root cause analysis investigates the root cause of identified problems in order to develop and implement a plan for corrective action. Note that the specific intent is to move on to corrective action.

ISO 9001 states: ‘Corrective actions shall be appropriate to the effects of the non-conformities encountered.’ In order to fulfil the requirements of this ‘shall’ you must evaluate what the effects of the non-conformities actually are. There must be a correlation between the negatives – cost, comparable loss or appreciable risk – and the action taken.

Only those problems and non-conformities that meet the criteria of this evaluation flow through to the corrective action process. It is inappropriate to expend large amounts of money and resources on a situation posing a minimal risk to the organisation. Therefore, since the process that precedes corrective action is root cause analysis, you can conclude that root cause analysis only occurs if there’s been a decision to conduct corrective action.

This distinction should allow you to better comprehend the difference between evaluating a nonconformity and conducting root cause analysis. The former will result in the decision to take some action, such as correction, remedial action, rework, monitoring etc. The latter will result in the identification of the causes of the problem and the development of an appropriate action plan in order to prevent recurrence.

Getting Started

The first step in this process is to evaluate the situation – the inputs – and arrive at a conclusion in order to initiate root cause analysis. The second is to select the members of the team who will conduct the root cause analysis. Giving thoughtful deliberation to the assignment of team members is as important as it is for any other process. It’s important to assign tasks to competent individuals, to communicate expectations and to ensure their availability for the project.

As you begin to select participants, it’s important to communicate the distinction between evaluation and root cause analysis. Otherwise there will be the predictable confusion, with individuals assuming that once they’ve told you that the bore is undersized or the battery needed to be replaced or a test wasn’t correctly scheduled that their job is done. What they need to understand is that root cause analysis has just begun.

There are myriad tools and techniques available for this process, but not all tools are used every time. In each instance, individuals involved should have the latitude to select the tools that best fit the situation.

In many instances the basic tools are the best. Using these tools also serves to increase individuals’ confidence in their ability to make a meaningful contribution. The introduction of complicated tools can alienate people who could otherwise provide valuable input.

Examine Documentation

Once the team has been assembled, the next step is to examine the documentation that relates to the situation to ascertain the requirements. It is often the case that assumptions are made about requirements that are not substantiated by documentation. This crystallises in the team’s mind what the requirements actually are.

In addition to establishing what the ‘right’ thing is, document review will reveal issues such as:

  • Incomplete or missing requirements
  • Requirements not adequately described


Now that the team has determined the requirements, it is necessary to verify that they are being fulfilled. Reviewing the documentation allows individuals to prepare questions to ask process owners that will help to verify conformance to the defined requirements.

Verification takes two paths. One is through interviewing, and the other is through looking at records and other evidence. Interviewing will provide information as to the level of conformance to documented procedures. Are people doing what the documents say they should? Are they conducting processes in the same manner as described? If there are variations, it is appropriate to investigate further to determine if the variance is part or all of the root cause. Accessing records will facilitate this determination.

Flowcharting is often a by-product of interviewing. The process is drawn twice – once as it is documented, then again as it is implemented. Comparisons between the two quickly reveal breakdowns. The act of flowcharting also makes process owners think about what they do as they are drawing the flow of activities. This sometimes allows them to pinpoint errors and omissions that show a process to be losing control.

Records form the foundation for root cause analysis. The integrity of the organisation’s record retention practices has direct influence on the effectiveness of this process. Root cause analysis doesn’t begin the day an organisation becomes aware of a problem. It starts months earlier with the aggregation of good data.

Once the interviewing and/or flowcharting processes are complete, the records can be accessed to substantiate or refute what has been conjectured as a possible root cause. Training people to do root cause analysis should include guidance on how to access records. Coaches and mentors should ensure that individuals are familiar with the organisation’s control of the quality records procedure and whatever other documents, like a record retention matrix, that provide information about location, access, owners, identification and retention period.

Brainstorming & ‘Five Whys’

There are two simple tools that help to generate ideas about what could have happened. They are brainstorming and the ‘five whys’. The overwhelming benefit of both of these is that they stimulate our creativity; they get us out of our habitual narrow focus so that we can explore other possibilities.

The results of both of these exercises should be used to populate a cause and effect diagram – also called fish bone diagram. This diagram should be used at the most basic level to keep the process simple.

The results of the brainstorming session can be paraphrased as questions and then used to populate the various blocks of the diagram. For example, figure 1 shows the material block populated with questions derived from a brainstorming session about late deliveries.

When all of the blocks have been populated with the output of the brainstorming session, the team begins the task of seeking out the records that will provide objective evidence to answer the questions.

The results of the exercise are recorded on a worksheet. For example: checked specifications developed by engineering; matched specifications against requisition, purchase order and receiving records. All match: no problem found. It can therefore be concluded that the purchasing function ordered what was specified and the supplier shipped what was ordered.

Root cause analysis is nothing more than a process of elimination, so it’s vital to remain objective and use thought-stimulating tools like brainstorming and the five whys. At the end of this fact finding exercise, the team will know exactly what processes related to this situation are acceptable and which ones have problems. By following the trails, the root cause will be identified.

Additionally, any contributing factors or secondary causes will also be uncovered. This allows for the development of a corrective action plan that addresses both the root cause and the ancillary issues that are contributing to it.

It is impossible to develop an effective action plan without thorough root cause analysis. Equally, it is impossible to conduct root cause analysis effectively without implementing it as a controlled process.

Five whys

How to complete the five whys:

  1. Write down the specific problem. Writing it helps you formalise the problem and describe it completely. It also helps a team focus on the same problem
  2. Ask why the problem happens and write the answer down below the problem
  3. If the answer you just provided doesn’t identify the root cause of the problem you wrote down in step one, ask why again and write that answer down
  4. Loop back to step three until the team is in agreement that the problem’s root cause is identified. This may take fewer or more than five whys!


  • Help to identify the root cause of a problem
  • Determine the relationship between different root causes of a problem
  • One of the simplest tools – easy to complete without statistical analysis, ambiguous or conflicting instructions (for example, both inch and centimetre references on a specification)

Brainstorming ground rules

  • There are no bad ideas. It’s a brainstorming session, not a serious matter that requires only serious solutions. Remember, this is one of the more fun tools of quality, so keep the entire team involved.
  • Don’t criticise other people’s ideas. This isn’t a debate, discussion or forum for one person to display superiority over another.
  • Build on other people’s ideas. Often an idea suggested by one person can trigger a bigger and/or better idea by another person.
  • Reverse the thought of ‘quality over quantity.’ Here we want quantity; the more creative ideas the better.
  • As a facilitator, you can even make it a challenge to come up with as many ideas as possible and compare this team‘s performance to the last brainstorming session you conducted. 

Explained: What is Fishbone Analysis?

Fishbone analysis visually displays the potential causes of a specific problem or effect under categories or sub-headings in a diagram in order to identify its root causes.

Why I should use Fishbone Analysis

There may be many different opinions as to the root cause of a problem; fishbone analysis draws all these opinions together and displays them in an easily comprehendible way. As the potential causes or issues behind the problem are more thoroughly explored and understood, a more robust and sustainable solution may be found.

When to use Fishbone Analysis

Fishbone analysis is particularly useful in a group setting and for situations where not a lot of quantitative data is available for analysis. This tool is often used together with Brainstorming and the ‘5 Whys’.

How to complete the Fishbone Analysis Diagram

  1. To construct a fishbone diagram, start with stating the problem in the form of a question. For example: “Why do customer services receive a high number of complaints?” 
  2. Doing this will help the team with the brainstorming as each cause idea should be an answer to the question
  3. The team should agree on the statement of the problem then put the agreed question in the box at the ‘head’ of the diagram
  4. The rest of the diagram consists of a vertical line from the head drawn across the page. Coming out diagonally from this line should be several lines, or ‘bones’. These ‘bones’ are labelled with different categories. The categories are up to you to decide, they depend on the project and subject matter under examination
  5. Once you have labelled the main category ‘bones’, start brainstorming possible causes and write them on the applicable ‘bones’
  6. For each of the causes identified, continue to ask ‘why does that happen?’ and attach that answer as another ‘bone’ of the main category ‘bone’
  7. Once the diagram is complete you will be well on your way to discovering the root causes of your problem. It would then be advisable to have the team prioritise the main causes identified on the diagram

Fishbone Analysis Diagram – Template

Fishbone diagram example

Fishbone Analysis Diagram – Example

Fishbone diagram example

Explained: The ‘Five Whys’ Method?

writing a business listing

The ‘Five Whys’ is a technique used to explore the underlying causes and effects of any problem. It is an interactive discussion of an unexpected event that follows one train of thought to its logical conclusion by asking “Why?” 5 times to get to the root of what happened.

Why I should use the ‘Five Whys’

It is one of the simplest and most effective tools for root cause analysis. It is easy to complete without complicated statistical analysis. By repeating ‘’why?’’ five times, the nature of the problem, its solution and the relationship between different root causes of a problem become clear.

When to use the ‘Five Whys’

The ‘Five Whys’ should be used following the immediate resolution of a problem that has occurred. This can be performed for any unexpected problem the company is facing.

How to complete the ‘Five Whys’

  1. As soon as a problem is identified and all immediate concerns are dealt with, invite all those affected to a ‘Five Whys’ meeting
  2. Select someone to lead the discussion, all others present will be involved in discussing the questions
  3. Write down the problem so that the team can focus on it
  4. Ask why the problem happened and write the answer down below the problem
  5. If the answer does not identify the root cause of the problem repeat the above step until all agree that the root cause has been identified – this may take more or less than five whys

Read about more Problem Solving Techniques – Pareto Analysis

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