Root Cause Analysis is an intellectual landmark, which ultimately defines the evolution of causation to effectuation. This is critically important in determining what integrities or interventions in process are needed to prevent similar adverse effects in future circumstances where similar variables or behaviors exist.
The origins of root cause analysis are credited to Sakichi Toyoda (1867 – 1930), who has often been remembered as the “Japanese Thomas Edison.” Toyoda was a Japanese inventor and the founder of Toyota. Sakichi Toyoda called his method of root cause analysis “The Five Whys.” This asks “why” five times or until the root cause(s) of a problem is found.
There may be no more timely & relevant incident to apply this exercise to than the events of January 6th at the United States Capitol. The damage and lives lost that day were an effect, but what were the causes?
Cause one (C1): A group of high-energy protesters determined to make an impression on the legislative branch of our government. This in itself, however, is also an effect (E1).
Cause two (C2): An insufficiently-protected Capitol Building, that failed to mitigate and deescalate an evolving threat. This is also an effect (E2).
The effects defined as E1 and E2 can each have a multitude of causes. For the sake of streamlining this exercise, this article will focus on the most impactful behaviors or variables of each.
E1C1: A large group of motivated individuals, with explicitly shared values, congregating to express the depth of those values on a defining electoral process. This is also an effect (E3).
E1C2: The group was compelled by a belief that their voices weren’t being legitimately heard. This is also an effect (E4).
E2C1: There was a critical lack of communication and planning between relevant agencies prior to the date. This is also an effect (E5).
E2C2: There was a critical lack of organization and resources available to be sufficiently and efficiently deployed. This is also an effect (E6).
E3C1: Supporters of President Trump responded to the call to travel to DC for a rally on 1/6. This is also an effect (E7).
E3C2: Supporters of President Trump remained devout in their loyalty and support. This is also an effect (E8).
E4C1: There was almost a complete media blackout on any coverage of potential violations of election integrity. This was also an effect (E9).
E4C2: Supporters of President Trump had practically all of their objections to the election heavily censored by social media platforms. This is also an effect (E10).
E4C3: The President and his legal team, and several high-profile figures continued to assert the position that there was widespread fraud that took place during the election. This is also an effect (E11).
E5 & E6 are closely related. As such, they will be combined.
E5/E6 Cause: The Capitol command & control structure was left without continuity or clear definition from the top. This is not only a result of various federal agencies failing to work together, but also a failure at critical leadership levels of the Capitol. The implementation of National Guard troops required a declaration of emergency from the Capitol Police Board. That declaration was requested by the Capitol Police Chief prior to 1/6, but was not approved by the Board, who functions under the direction of the Speaker of the House.
E9 & E10 are closely related. As such, they will be combined.
E9/E10 Cause: A significant and definable political bias being propagated and enabled by both traditional media and social media outlets, that limited or entirely restricted avenues of communication that would otherwise afford all points of view to be discussed and heard, and objectively participated.
E11 Cause: A refusal of local and state governments to enact, retain, and audit election integrity protocols according to their designated legislations, in favor of placing contested political agendas ahead of constitutional ideals and precedent.
These are broad-brush causes that themselves could be effects with several more causes. But, they are the most significant factors that are most closely related to the events of January 6th.
Additionally, it is important to consider that cause & effect do not always run parallel to action & consequence, as is the case with the events of January 6th. While root cause may not ultimately rest with the perpetrators of that day, their actions on that day have a direct and related consequence.
This article could have simply stated: “A bias, media-driven narrative and the irresponsible prioritization of bureaucracy over accountability led to the damage and fatalities of January 6th.” However, such a simple statement removes the understanding of how detailed variables and behaviors were related to or reliant on one another as preventable intersections or points of impact leading up to the effects of that day.
Our sociopolitical environment will only begin to cool the winds of emotion when the minds of reason begin to warm up. Consistently applying critical thinking behaviors like root cause analysis, is just one way to inject some baseline integrity back into our daily discussions and understanding.