FLEX-RCA: a lean-based method for root cause analysis in software process improvement
Journal article, 2019

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.

Automotive industry

Process improvement



Software-intensive systems

Organizational management and coordination

Lean product development

Case study

Software engineering


J. Pernstal

Volvo Cars

Robert Feldt

Chalmers, Computer Science and Engineering (Chalmers), Software Engineering (Chalmers)

T. Gorschek

Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, BTH

D. Floren

Volvo Cars

Software Quality Journal

0963-9314 (ISSN) 1573-1367 (eISSN)

Vol. 27 1 389-428

Subject Categories

Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics

Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified

Software Engineering



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