Corrective Action

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Corrective Action: Fixing the Root Cause

The procedure required for fixing the root cause is often called a corrective action plan. According to the Standard AS9100 - 8.5.2 Corrective Action:

The organization shall take action to eliminate the causes of nonconformities in order to prevent recurrence. Corrective actions shall be appropriate to the effects of the nonconformities encountered. A documented procedure shall be established to define requirements for

  1. reviewing nonconformities (including customer complaints),
  2. determining the causes of nonconformities,
  3. evaluating the need for action to ensure that nonconformities do not recur,
  4. determining and implementing action needed,
  5. records of the results of action taken,
  6. reviewing the effectiveness of the corrective action taken,
  7. flowing down corrective action requirements to a supplier when it is determined that the supplier is responsible for the nonconformity,
  8. specific actions where timely and / or effective corrective actions are not achieved, and
  9. determining if additional nonconforming product exists based on the causes of the nonconformities and taking further action when required.

Thus, to address (fix) the root cause, potential root cause solutions are evaluated, a solution (or combination of solutions) is selected, an action plan is developed, and the solution is implemented and verified. In addition, a good solution will keep the problem from occurring again and is practical, feasible, and cost-effective as well as robust and sustainable.

Evaluate potential solutions

  • Combine solutions that are similar or are extensions of each other.

  • Screen solution candidates for practicality, feasibility, and cost-effectiveness; delete those that do not fulfill these aspects.

  • Select the best solution:
    • Develop criteria and an approach to be used to evaluate solution candidates against that criteria.
    • Decision Matrices can aid decision-making; many types of matrices are available to help evaluate solution candidates including:
      • Pros & Cons Matrix
      • Force Field Analysis
      • Plus-Minus Attribute Rating
      • Musts and Wants Analysis
      • Nominal Group Technique
      • Voting and Ranking
      • Kano Analysis
(Is one technique better than another? This depends on the situation and context.)

Develop and implement the action plan

  • The action plan outlines what steps are needed to implement the solution, who will do them, and when they will be completed.

  • Simple Action Plans have a "who, what, & when" format.

  • Complex Action Plans often use PERT and Gantt Charts as action planning tools.

Verify the action plan

  • Verify that the solution works as designed.

  • Always check to see if the solution creates new problems by checking with the users, asking specific questions on use, usability, and performance. To verify, ask:

    • Does it work?
    • How well does it work?
    • Does it work for all conditions and all participants?
    • Does it create other problems?
  • Adjust the solution quickly if:
    • Instructions are unclear
    • Using the solution creates confusion
    • The solution creates other problems

Finalizing the solution

To finalize the solution, ensure that it is permanent and institutionalized by:

  • Validating the solution

  • Training the affected groups in the new process and procedures
  • Sharing lessons learned


Verification versus Validation:

  • Verification: was the solution built right?

  • Validation: was the right solution built? (or: Have the desired outcomes or effects been realized?)

  • Things to check:
    • Does the outcome meet expectations?
    • Does it work for all possible conditions?
    • Does it create any new problems?
    • Do the stakeholders agree with (or at least accept) the solution?
    • Has the solution affected suppliers?


  • If the solution has led to changes in procedures or systems have changed, those using the procedures / systems will need training on how to work with the changes.
  • Most likely, informal training has been conducted as part of the solution implementation and verification. Now is the time to develop a formalized training program around the new procedures / system.
    • Who, how, and when will users be trained?
    • How will suggestions for potential revisions or enhancements be collected and used?

Knowledge transfer

  • Identify other processes that are similar; the same or similar root cause analysis solutions may apply to them.
  • Leverage best practices by considering a Knowledge Base to archive and retrieve best practices.  This can be especially important in academic team payload projects as the project team members are fairly fluid as students join and leave the team.
  • Mitigating a root cause creates a best practice; publicize best practices through (internal) forums, newsletters, or blogs.