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Team Development 13 - Unlocking Performance

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  1. Identifying Opportunities
    5 Lessons
  2. Driving Growth
    5 Lessons
  3. Maximizing Shareholder Value
    5 Lessons
  4. Delivering Results
    5 Lessons
  5. Managing Underperformance
    5 Lessons
  6. Variance Analysis
    5 Lessons
  7. Communicating Progress
    5 Lessons
  8. Forecasting Future Impact
    5 Lessons
Topic 5, Lesson 2
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Root Cause Analysis for Business Underperformance

Dan Wells August 15, 2023
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Investigating question

Understanding the root causes behind business underperformance is crucial for crafting effective recovery strategies. Root cause analysis involves diving deep into various factors that contribute to underperformance, identifying the underlying issues, and addressing them at their source.


  1. Gather Data: Collect and analyze relevant data, including financial reports, operational metrics, customer feedback, and employee input. Look for patterns and anomalies that can provide insights into the reasons for underperformance.
  2. Identify Possible Causes: Brainstorm potential causes with a cross-functional team. Consider factors like market trends, internal processes, external influences, and changes in competitive landscape.
  3. Prioritize Causes: Narrow down the list of potential causes to focus on those with the most significant impact. Use tools like the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) to identify the vital few factors affecting underperformance.
  4. Analyze Root Causes: Apply problem-solving techniques like the “Five Whys” method, where you repeatedly ask “why” to uncover deeper layers of causation. This helps reveal the underlying issues driving the observed symptoms of underperformance.
  5. Validation and Action: Once you’ve pinpointed root causes, validate them through data and stakeholder input. Develop action plans to address each root cause, involving relevant departments and teams.


  1. Low Sales Figures: Instead of simply reacting to low sales, a root cause analysis may reveal that the decline is due to ineffective marketing strategies targeting the wrong audience, leading to low customer engagement.
  2. Operational Delays: A deeper analysis might uncover that operational delays stem from bottlenecks in the supply chain caused by outdated inventory management practices.

By conducting thorough root cause analyses, finance professionals can gain a comprehensive understanding of the factors contributing to underperformance. This knowledge lays the foundation for designing and implementing effective recovery strategies that target the actual issues rather than just addressing symptoms.