What is the easiest way to tell a good root cause analysis program from a bad one?

The involvement of senior management.

How do you know if a root cause analysis program is about to fail?

Senior management changes and the new management shows no interest in the root cause analysis program.

What level of senior management is involved in the best root cause analysis programs?

All the way to the corporate board.

MANAGEMENT INVOLVEMENT

The answers to the three questions above show that senior management involvement is extremely important to the success of any root cause analysis program. The better the root cause analysis program, the more senior management involvement counts. That’s why I thought I’d take this time to explain how senior management should be involved in a root cause analysis program.

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CORPORATE BOARD

I’ve seen a few leading companies where the Corporate Board was knowledgeable of the safety/process safety/quality improvement programs. The best had a senior manager who was responsible for reporting key reactive and proactive statistics to a special board committee with primary responsibility for safety and other improvement efforts. The committee, that included the CEO, also was provided with overviews of the most serious incident investigations and summaries of improvement efforts.

This board’s interest ensured that people paid attention to the programs and that budgets weren’t slashed for key improvement initiatives (because they were supported by the board).

VP/DIVISION MANAGER

Of course, VPs or Division Managers were interested in their division’s reactive and proactive improvement performance. What VP or Division Manager wouldn’t be if the Corporate Board was going to see their statistics. They wanted to be able to manage performance so they became involved in improvement efforts. The held divisional meetings to review progress and presentation of root cause analyses of their biggest problems. They held Plant Managers and Unit Leaders responsible for their performance making improvement programs succeed.

PLANT MANAGERS

Involved Plant Managers demand good root cause analysis and schedule reviews of detailed root cause analyses of significant problem investigations. They make sure that their key improvement programs are staffed with well trained, insightful leaders and that they have plentiful staff and budget to perform investigations, review reactive and proactive statistics, sponsor training throughout the plant, and look outside the company for improvement ideas. They are the site sponsors of the improvement programs. They are trained in the root cause analysis tools being applied at the plant. Because they are trained, they offer insightful critiques of the investigation presentations. They reward employees for their participation in root cause analyses and the improvement programs.

WHAT DOES YOUR COMPANY DO?

Is your senior management involved in performance improvement?

Do you have best practices for management involvement that I’ve missed and should be included here?

What do you need to do to improve your management involvement?

If you have support, are you ready for management turnover?

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t worry if your program doesn’t have all the management support that it needs. But don’t ignore your program’s shortcomings. Work on getting more management support all the way up to the corporate board.

When safety/improvement performance is seen as equally important, you know you have achieved a level of support that most improvement managers can only dream about.