Root Cause Analysis a Powerful Tool for Strata Management

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
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Given the challenges and complexities involved in the running of strata title facilities, managers should avail themselves of the most effective tools at their disposal in the discharge of their day-to-day duties.

More than just a specialist area of property management, strata managers are essentially entrusted with overseeing the sound functioning of entire residential communities, and the complex relationships that arise under strata title systems that involve multiple owners and tenants sharing a single facility.

One tool that can be immensely useful for strata managers in dealing with their daily occupational challenges is root cause analysis (RCA) – a problem solving method that seeks to identify and address the initial source of any potential dilemmas.

The method was first devised in the 1950s by NASA in order to better navigate the extremely fraught and complex realm of rocket design and development, where any problems were not just immensely costly but also potentially lethal.

RCA’s effectiveness is not confined to rocket science, however, and can prove just as successful at resolving dilemmas arising in other, less arcane areas of human endeavour, such as the medical profession, where it is currently one of the most widely employed methods for improving the safety of patients.

RCA essentially involves identifying the primary root causes of any problems that arise, and addressing these root causes in order to resolve their ensuing problems. While it is a reactive method which involves analysis following the occurrence of an issue, the insights it garners can be employed subsequently for preemptive methods to prevent similar problems from arising again in future.

In therapeutic terms, RCA is the opposite of just “treating the symptoms,” and can be conveniently illustrated by a simple scenario taken from the medical profession.

If a doctor were to treat a patient with a sore leg by simply prescribing short-term painkillers, he or she would only be treating the symptoms instead of the source of the problem. The painkillers would serve only as a stopgap solution, and need to be taken on an ongoing, recurrent basis, as the actual cause of the pain would remain unaddressed.

If a doctor were to inspect the same patient and ascertain that he or she suffered from a broken femur, as well as realign the bone and place it in a cast so that it would eventually heal, this would be an example of root cause analysis, in which the actual cause of the problem is identified and directly addressed.

Given the causal nature of just about all of life’s problems, RCA can be applied to just about any area where dilemmas arise, including modern day strata management, and used to identify the often multiple causes of ongoing problems.

An example is the collection of data to address numerous complaints by the residents of a strata property about temperature problems. The strata manager had received over 300 calls from tenant over an eight-month period about temperature levels being either too hot or too cold.

The strata manager engaged in RCA by amassing as much data as possible about conditions in the facility, including actual temperatures, the condition of thermostats and HVAC systems, as well as interviewing tenants themselves.

This information enabled the strata manager to identify the two root causes of the temperature issues. The first was poorly performed tenant fit ups that were unable to effectively interact with the property’s building automation system. The second was that when corrections were made in response to complaints from one tenant, it would affect adjacent areas and result in the discomfiture of other tenants, producing a run-on complaints.

By identifying these root causes using RCA, the strata manager was able to prevent any problems in future, instead of continuing to address their individual manifestations on multiple occasions.

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