No business is immune to risk. Projects can often develop unanticipated action items that can lead to accidents and errors. Corrective action helps realign any business processes that have gone awry. Through documentation and tracking, a corrective action plan prevents future incidents.

ISO 9001 (the international standard for a quality management system) defines corrective action as "any action taken to mitigate the cause and effects of a problem to prevent its recurrence."

A corrective action plan (CAP) helps prevent the same issues from happening again. It strengthens business processes, products, and employee performances to avoid errors that cause nonconformities. For example, a CAP may address customer complaints, equipment failure, or misinterpretation of work instructions. 

This article explains how a corrective action plan benefits risk management procedures. It also offers a seven-step plan that any organization can use to build a safer and more profitable workplace.

What Is a Corrective Action Plan?

Manager drafting a corrective action plan

An effective corrective action plan identifies the root cause of problems and prevents their recurrence with rigorous documentation. The CAP aims to resolve the root cause of the issue rather than just address the surface signs. 

A corrective action plan template can help mitigate similar issues in the future. Introducing templates helps add transparency to your operation and empowers team members to implement corrective actions.

An excellent corrective action plan is precise and provides ample details. The plan should provide a well-informed estimate of the timeline and resources required. As a best practice, a CAP should include information about the key stakeholders involved, any constraints in the process, interim deadlines, and guidepost metrics to indicate progress.

7 Steps of a Corrective Action Process

Corrective and preventative actions (CAPA) are essential to every business, yet there are several ways to apply the problem-solving theory. The automotive industry, for example, has come up with various formats for the corrective action process based on audits of suppliers, including the Eight Disciplines Process (8D)

The following seven steps are part of the corrective action process defined by ISO 9001 that can be broadly applied to address most work-related issues.

Step 1: Define the Problem

The first step toward taking corrective actions concerning any noncompliance issue is identifying and defining the problem. You can use several methods to identify nonconformities depending on the circumstances.

For example, you can identify regulatory compliance or risk controls issues through an internal audit.

The other option is using incident investigation to determine the problem behind an accident or error.

While defining the problem, research areas that will help confirm its business impact. Describe the who, what, when, where, and why of the issue. Clearly outline the expected outcome, often called a "should be" statement. 

For example, in a corrective action request form, if you receive the wrong batch of parts from a supplier, the comparable statements might be: "We received steel parts," and "the parts should be made of copper." 

If you find it hard to define the expected outcome, it may not be worthy of a corrective action plan. 

Step 2: Establish the Scope of the Problem

The next step is to understand the severity of the problem and how it affects your essential business operations. Examine the issue within the context of its occurrence. 

For example, suppose it impacts your organization's entire supply chain or happens every day, like a hazardous leak in a pipeline. It might be more crucial to address this than if the issue occasionally occurs or impacts just one particular transaction. 

Address every problem, but prioritize it based on its scope to give you an idea of whether it requires immediate attention.

Step 3: Take Containment Actions

Young employees planning corrective actions

While corrective actions aim to find the root cause of the problem and prevent it from occurring again, this process takes time. Ongoing issues can't be left unresolved while performing risk assessment and strategy.

Implement containment actions to take care of the most pressing symptoms. Perform checks and measures to catch and fix the surface-level issues while your team addresses the source of the problem. 

Step 4: Find the Root Cause of the Problem

Finding the underlying issue is the trickiest part of the process. Sometimes, it may seem like you have found the root cause of the problem, but you have only identified a surface-level issue. 

So, it's essential to be cautious and use established root cause analysis techniques to ensure that you have correctly identified the underlying issue. 

Popular techniques include the "5 Whys" method, which involves asking "why" five times, and the more complex Ishikawa or fishbone diagram

Step 5: Plan Corrective Actions to Fix the Root Cause

Once you have detected the root cause of the problem, it is time to create a plan to address it.

Create SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) goals and allot feasible deadlines. Make sure these goals or solutions are centered around the root cause, detailing every step necessary to eliminate the underlying cause of a problem. 

Depending on the extent of the problem, you may also need to provide a cost and return on investment analysis and get formal management approval for funding before you start the corrective action procedure. 

Make your corrective action plan more manageable by providing a list of who will be responsible, how they should report their progress, and to whom. Also, note anticipated due dates and time frames that they should keep in mind while reporting. 

Step 6: Implement the Corrective Action Plan

The next step is to implement the new process. 

Corrective actions may be as simple as replacing a faulty piece of equipment or updating old software. The CAP can also involve more complex processes like hiring and training outside consultants to manage risks. 

Be thorough with every aspect of your corrective action plan and regularly communicate your progress with all the relevant stakeholders. 

Step 7: Follow Up to Ensure That Your Plan Worked

After executing the corrective action plan, close out the process with a well-documented corrective action report. Schedule a final debrief to inform your team about any changes to operations or workflows

Follow up after an appropriate time to check that the corrective action plan resolved the problem. If not, dig deeper and repeat the process until you address all the underlying causes of the problem. Continue documenting any lessons learned to help address similar issues in the future.

Pulpstream Supports Continual Improvement

Corrective action plan: Pulpstream website

An effective corrective action process requires attention to detail, integration of multiple streams of data and analysis, and regular communication among stakeholders. 

Handling these processes manually is inefficient and time-consuming, often leading to errors. Templatize and streamline the entire corrective action plan process and simplify your team's work with Pulpstream's no-code incident management software

Automation transforms planning and corrective actions into a smoother, more cost-effective process. The platform enables you to collate, analyze, and store all types of data, making root cause analysis holistic and complete. A well-organized dashboard allows key stakeholders to access crucial information, which provides greater visibility and efficiency. 

Schedule a free demo to learn how Pulpstream can help you build a better and safer workplace with business process transformations that support your team.