We have a tendency to jump right in, eager to create change for families, without exploring root causes of the problems we are trying to solve. Solutions are often designed based on assumptions, or symptoms. Over time, if we have failed to carefully examine and understand root causes, the program or effort is likely to prove ineffective.
A root-cause analysis provides more understanding of the current state of the world. A root cause asks “why?” several times until the problem’s basic reason is understood. Understanding the root will influence the development of strategies needed to solve the problem, rather than treat the symptoms, ultimately resulting in more successful outcomes.
Problem: Children are not enrolled in home-visiting programs
- Why? Because the families aren’t interested in the service.
- Why? Because the families don’t want someone coming into their home.
- Why? Because the parents are concerned that the home visitor will call DCFS.
- Why? Because the family is living in poor conditions.
- Why? Because the family is doubled-up to afford rent.
In this scenario, now that there is a better understanding of the real issue, the collaboration can begin to design effective strategies that will make families feel comfortable with home-visiting by addressing the identified barriers.
For example, it is possible that a home visit could be conducted in a location other than the family's home. Imagine if the collaboration stopped asking “Why?” after finding out the family isn’t interested in the service: the solutions would be completely different and likely not move the needle.