If you belong to an operational area or a customer face border area, for sure you have heard about this kind of report. In most of the cases, the client asks for it immediately after the occurrence of an incident, when the issue is still warm and he/she can use it to make decisions and share it with the board. Indeed, this kind of reports and the way they are written are almost crucial in some cases (job positions may depend on the efficiency of it).
Here are some tips to write a good root of cause report:
Brief description of what happened
Two or three paragraphs tops. In this description, never suppose that the reader was part of the problem and is aware of every part of it. You have to be unbiased and try to describe the problem in an executive way. Remember, this part of the report is usually the one that defines if the reader will continue reading or not. Leave any personal feelings or appreciations behind and be objective.
Factors that trigger the problem (bullets section)
Each of them will be developed in depth as part of the report. We really recommended situating each in a timeline in order of occurrence to help the reader develop a good vision of what happened and in which order. In this part of the report, try to be as verbose as you can, indicating time, people, events (with evidence and log files), examples, and everything that might help the reader understand the context in deep. Never mix improvement opportunities with events occurred during the problem and every observation must be supported by accurate information and evidence. Try, if it is possible, not to refer names unless you were specifically asked to do so.
As the first section “What happened”, the conclusion should be brief and objective. As in these sections, there is no place for ambiguities, everything must be clear and based on every factor that triggered the problem. Always try to find the way to express things in a passive voice, with no emotions in between the lines.
Suggested action plan & Continuous Improvement Opportunities
As a provider of a service or a product, you are supposed to have always a plan to prevent things from happening again. In this section, you have to give a brief description of each and every action you and your team will take to avoid this kind of problems in the future.
Basically, you have to describe two things:
- What could have been done differently and better during troubleshooting
- Preventive & Corrective actions that have to be done by you as a provider, and by the client.
Finally, one very important thing is to share the report with co-workers for revisions before sending it to the client! Also, calling the client once you have sent the report to arrange a personal or remote meeting to discuss it is an excellent idea.