Proximate and Root Causes

Discovering the root cause of an event involves looking deeper than the immediate causes for that event.

Description

A proximate cause is the event most closely associated or immediately responsible to an observed result. This is in contrast to the higher-level root cause. Getting to a root cause often requires a deep dive into the situation using approaches like Socratic questioning or the 5 Whys.

Examples

  • Post-mortem reports for critical failures generally outline proximate causes and how they stem from the root cause. For instance: a website was down due servers running out of disk space which was in turn a result of a bug which in turn was a result of poor testing and so on.
  • A child repeatedly asking "why?" to answers for an initial question is trying to get to the root cause.