What is a Root Cause Analysis of Survey Data?

As meaningful, important, and necessary as comparisons with benchmarking data are in order to understand survey results, management is still left with the subjective task of prioritizing results, and deciding which survey items should be addressed. Variations in manpower and material requirements that are needed to intervene into problem areas have to be considered, and add to the difficulty of prioritization. The prioritization of action items is a critical step indeed, as action must be taken quickly to produce the greatest amount of positive change in the shortest amount of time.

A Root Cause Analysis identifies the items upon which to focus first. Quite often, the Root Cause is not one of the lowest scoring items, but rather, one that would have been completely overlooked or ignored without this analysis. It is also important to understand that each Root Cause Analysis identifies predictors or drivers specific to the organization, or the particular segment of the organization. No two Root Cause Analyses are the same. This is because it is a function of the management style, culture, climate, communications, and so forth that are present in any organization, and indeed, to business units or departments within an organization with distinctive management styles.

To conduct a Root Cause Analysis, correlations, regressions, and psychological path analyses are conducted on every survey item with every other survey item. Correlations are the numeric expression of the relationship between each survey question and every other survey question. The (modified, proprietary) stepwise, linear regression analysis serves to measure the degree and direction of influence of independent and dependent variables (survey questions), and of course, assess the statistical significance of each relationship. Finally, an Organizational Behavior (Psychological) Path Analysis is conducted by the Organizational Psychologists, working in conjunction with the Statisticians, on the Client data. The Path Analysis applies the Organizational Psychologists’ knowledge of business processes and their interdependencies to the Statisticians’ results of the correlation and regression analyses.

The Root Cause Analysis eliminates what might otherwise be months of debate over which items should be addressed, as well as the manpower and budget requirements of interventions to the various issues, all of which may or may not result in significant improvements to the organization.