Yin and Yang in Root Cause Analysis


There is a balance that exists in root cause analysis that is Yin and Yang. In Chinese philosophy, Yin and Yang represents the harmonious balance between seemingly contradictory forces. Light is Yang, darkness is Yin. Hot is Yang, cold is Yin. Top of a hill is Yang, valley of the hill is Yin. The typical representation of Yin and Yang has the white section as Yang and the black section as Yin.

The root cause analysis process can be represented by the simple schematic below:

yin yang con div

Once the problem statement is made, one should use divergent thinking to gather more data/information and identify the potential sources of a problem. This should be followed by convergent thinking where one focuses on the true root cause(s). One might use Fishbone diagram as the form of divergent thinking, and five why as the convergent thinking.

Divergent thinking is expansive in nature and lacks focus, thus it is Yin. Convergent thinking, on the other hand is zooming in and direct in nature, thus it is Yang. As with anything else in nature, a good root cause analysis process should have at least one cycle of divergent thinking and convergent thinking. The approach of Yin and Yang creates a complete/whole root cause analysis.

Jumping to conclusions is just Yang. The absence of Yin makes this an imbalanced and wrong approach. As noted above, one may use multiple cycles of divergent thinking followed by convergent thinking. Think of this as a rinse process, purifying your thinking process with each cycle. This will provide clarity in your investigation, and prevent biases that water down your efforts to fix the problem.

As you may have noted, each half (Yin or Yang) also has a dot corresponding to the opposite color. This indicates that within each section, nothing is complete. In my humble opinion, this is similar to the Japanese thinking of wabi-sabi. That is, even within the Yin, it is not completely Yin. There is a dot of Yang in it. Even when we are doing divergent thinking, we are going in a certain direction. Even when we are doing convergent thinking, we are still remaining open.

Always keep on learning…


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