BENCHMARKING ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS

I’ve had many people ask me to comment on their use of root cause analysis. How are they doing? How do they compare to others? So I thought I’d make a simple comparison table that people could use to see how they were doing (in my opinion). I’ve chosen to rate the efforts as one of the following categories …

  • Bad
  • Better
  • Even Better
  • Excellent

For each of these categories I’ve tried to answer the following questions about the efforts so that you could see which one most closely parallels your efforts. The questions are:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • To What Extent?
  • Under What Conditions?

BAD

This is one step above no effort to find root causes.

Who performs the root cause analysis? The supervisor involved.

What do they use to perform the root cause analysis? 5-Why’s or no technique at all.

When do they perform the root cause analysis? In their spare time. (They must do their regular job and do the root cause analysis at the same time.)

Where do they perform the root cause analysis? Mainly in their office – they may do a few simple interviews with employees out in the plant but they don’t have a quiet, private room for interviewing.

To what extent do they pursue root causes? Usually as far as they think management will push them to go. If they can find a piece of equipment or a person to blame, that is far enough. The corrective actions can be to fix the equipment or to discipline the person and that is all that is needed.

Under what conditions do they perform the root cause analysis? They are in a hurry because management needs to know who to punish. Or the punishment may come before the root cause analysis is completed. They also know that if they can’t make a good case for someone else being blamed, they may get blamed for not having done a thorough pre-job risk assessment (call it a job safety analysis, pre-job brief, or pre-job planning if those terms fit better at your company). One more thing to worry about is that they certainly can’t point out any management system flaws or they may become a target of management’s wrath.

PROBLEMS WITH BAD

The problems with a BAD root cause analysis effort is that the solutions implemented seldom cause improvement. You frequently see very similar incidents happen over and over again due to uncorrected root causes.

Also, the root cause analysis tends to add to morale problems. People don’t like to be blamed and punished even if they may think that it was their fault. They especially don’t like it when they feel they are being made a scape goat.

Finally, because near-misses and small problems aren’t solved effectively, there is a chance that the issues involved can cause a major accident that results in a fatality (or even worse, multiple fatalities). In almost every major accident, there were chances to learn from previous smaller issues. If these issues had been addressed effectively with a thorough root cause analysis and corrective actions, the major accident would have never occurred.

 

BETTER

Better is better than bad, but still has problems.

Who performs the root cause analysis? The supervisor involved.

What do they use to perform the root cause analysis? TapRooT®.

When do they perform the root cause analysis? In their spare time. (Similar to BAD.)

Where do they perform the root cause analysis? Mainly in their office. (Similar to BAD.)

To what extent do they pursue root causes? They use the Root Cause Tree® and find at least one root cause for at least a few of the Causal Factors.

Under what conditions do they perform the root cause analysis? They are trained in only the minimum knowledge to use TapRooT®. Sometimes they don’t even get the full 2-Day TapRooT® Course but instead are given a “short course” which should be “good enough” for supervisors. (Supervisors don’t have time to attend two days of root cause analysis training.) They often treat the Root Cause Tree® as a pick list and don’t use (or perhaps don’t have a copy of) the Root Cause Tree® Dictionary to use to guide their root cause analysis. Also, they may not understand the importance of having a complete SnapCharT® to understand what happened before they start trying to find out why it happened (using the Root Cause Tree®). And they probably don’t use the Corrective Action Helper® to develop effective corrective actions. Instead, rely on the well understood three standard corrective actions: Discipline, Training, and Procedures.

PROBLEMS WITH BETTER

The problems with a BETTER root cause analysis effort is that people claim to be doing a thorough TapRooT® root cause analysis and they aren’t. Thus they miss root causes that they should have identified and they implement ineffective fixes (or at best, the weakest corrective action – training). The results may be better than not using TapRooT® (they may have learned something in their training) but they aren’t getting the full benefit of the tools they are using. Their misuse of the system gives TapRooT® a bad name at their site.

Also, because near-misses and small problems aren’t solved effectively, there is a chance that the issues involved can cause a major accident (just like the BAD example above).

 

EVEN BETTER

Even better is the minimum that you should be shooting for. Don’t settle for less.

Who performs the root cause analysis? A well trained investigator. This investigator should have some independence from the actual incident.

What do they use to perform the root cause analysis? TapRooT®.

When do they perform the root cause analysis? They either have time set aside in their normal schedules to perform investigations or they are relived of their regular duties to perform the investigation. They also have a reasonable time frame to complete the investigation.

Where do they perform the root cause analysis? They probably use a regular conference room to conduct interviews away from the “factory floor”.

To what extent do they pursue root causes? They use the tools in TapRooT® to their fullest. This includes developing a thorough SnapCharT®, Safeguards Analysis to identify or confirm Causal Factors, the Root Cause Tree® and the Root Cause Tree® Dictionary to find root causes. And Safeguards Analysis and the Corrective Action Helper® to develop effective fixes.

Under what conditions do they perform the root cause analysis? They have support from management, who are also trained in what is required to find root causes using TapRooT®. They have experienced experts to consult with for difficult root cause analysis process questions. If it is a major investigation, they have the help of appropriate investigation team members and the root cause analysis effort is performed with a real time peer review process from another experienced TapRooT® facilitator.

PROBLEMS WITH EVEN BETTER

There aren’t too many problems here. There is room for improvement but the root cause analysis process and fixes are generally very effective. Smaller problems tend to be fixed effectively and help prevent major accidents from occurring.

The one issue tends to be that as performance improves, investigators get less and less experience using the TapRooT® techniques. New investigators don’t get the practice and feedback they need to develop their skills.

 

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EXCELLENT

Read Chapter 6, section 6.3, of the TapRooT® Book for a complete description of what an excellent implementation of TapRooT® looks like. This kind of TapRooT® implementation should be your long term root cause analysis effort goal. The following is a brief description of what Chapter 6 covers.

Who performs the root cause analysis? For major investigations, a well trained facilitator with a trained team. For more minor investigations, a trained investigator. The site investigation policy should clearly identify the investigative effort needed based on the actual and potential consequences of the particular incident.

What do they use to perform the root cause analysis? TapRooT®.

When do they perform the root cause analysis? Per the company’s pre-planning, the investigator and team either have time set aside in their normal schedules to perform investigations or they are relived of their regular duties to perform the investigation. They also have a reasonable time frame to complete the investigation.

Where do they perform the root cause analysis? For a major investigation an appropriate room is set aside for the team and they use a regular conference room to conduct interviews away from the “factory floor”.

To what extent do they pursue root causes? They use the tools in TapRooT® to their fullest.

Under what conditions do they perform the root cause analysis? The management sponsor has pre-approved a performance improvement policy that covers the investigation process. managers, facilitators, and all employees involved are trained per the policy standards. A no blame or “just” culture has been established and the purpose of the investigation is understood to be performance improvement.

PROBLEMS WITH EXCELLENT

You can’t be excellent without a senior management sponsor and management support. And being excellent is a never ending improvement process.

Also, as performance improves, investigator get less experience with reactive investigations. Therefore, proactive use of TapRooT® must be an integral part of any EXCELLENT TapRooT® root cause analysis effort. Proactive use of TapRooT® is covered in Chapter 4 of the TapRooT® Book and an example of proactive use of TapRooT®, the after action review, is provided HERE.

 

BENCHMARK

How did your root cause analysis efforts compare? What do you need to improve? Even if you are EXCELLENT, you need to continuously improve your efforts. For even more improvement ideas and benchmarking, consider attending the 2015 Global TapRooT® Summit in Las Vegas on June 1-5. For more information, see:

http://www.taproot.com/taproot-summit