Software Quality Journal

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 389–428 | Cite as

FLEX-RCA: a lean-based method for root cause analysis in software process improvement

  • J. PernstålEmail author
  • R. Feldt
  • T. Gorschek
  • D. Florén


Software process improvement (SPI) is an instrument to increase the productivity of, and the quality of work, in software organizations. However, a majority of SPI frameworks are too extensive or provide guidance and potential improvement areas at a high level, indicating only the symptoms, not the causes. Motivated by the industrial need of two Swedish automotive companies to systematically uncover the underlying root causes of high-level improvement issues identified in an SPI project—assessing inter-departmental interactions in large-scale software systems development—this paper advances a root cause analysis (RCA) method building on Lean Six Sigma, called Flex-RCA. Flex-RCA is used to delve deeper into challenges identified to find root causes as a part of the evaluation and subsequent improvement activities. We also demonstrate and evaluate Flex-RCA’s industrial applicability in a case study. An overall conclusion is that the use of Flex-RCA was successful, showing that it had the desired effect of both producing a broad base of causes on a high level and, more importantly, enabling an exploration of the underlying root causes.


Organizational management and coordination Communication Software engineering Software-intensive systems Automotive industry Case study Lean product development Agile Process improvement 



The authors would like to express their gratitude to all those somehow involved in this study and especially the participants at Volvo Cars and Volvo Trucks.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Volvo CarsGothenburgSweden
  2. 2.Chalmers University of TechnologyGothenburgSweden
  3. 3.Blekinge Institute of TechnologyKarlskronaSweden

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