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Growth vs. Fixed Mindsets in Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

By: Pat Salemo, LSSMBB, Partner, Meliora Consulting Group

We have all faced situations where things did not go as expected. We have an inherent desire to figure out and respond to what happened. As my colleague noted, it’s important to take the time to implement solutions that resolve the root cause and not the symptoms. As the complexity of the problem increases it becomes more difficult to solve. Therefore, to solve intricate problems, it is necessary to leverage the knowledge of others as well as utilize a focused process. Organizations can apply a root cause analysis (RCA) problem-solving method such as the “5 Whys” to detect the underlying cause of a problem so that symptoms do not reappear. However, how do organizations select the right people?

Typically, organizations select subject matter experts to participate in an RCA. The subject matter experts are those employees who do the actual work or have the knowledge base required. They allow the team to dig deep enough to get to the root cause. To foster the sustainability of solutions through company culture and organizational learning it is important to also consider the mindset of the team composition. American psychologist, Carol Dweck, defined the terms fixed and growth mindsets in her 2006 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Those with a fixed mindset believe that talent and intelligence is innate whereas growth mindset individuals believe that those areas can be cultivated. People with a growth mindset tend to be better at responding to obstacles and are an asset for an RCA team. Mindsets can be nurtured by organizations and leaders by embracing continuous improvement. A well-run RCA can promote a culture for a growth mindset through stressing an open environment for all to speak up to maximize learnings and mitigate future events.

When choosing people to participate in a Root Cause Analysis, consider those with a growth mindset, especially ones that will ask thoughtful questions and help share the learnings from the team in addition to subject matter expertise to prevent future instances.

For more information, please go to or contact Pat Salemo, LSSMBB at

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