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What if you have more than you can possibly investigate?

Hello and welcome to this week’s root cause analysis tips column.

One of the questions I am asked often is “what should we investigate?”

The answer is it really depends on your company, your numbers, and your resources. I have some ideas, and these apply to anything, but I will use safety as an example.

First of all, your company may have a policy on what has to be investigated; for example, all lost time injuries or all recordable injuries. So you already know you are required to do those. But what if something is not required?

What I say is investigate as much as possible based on your numbers and your resources. If you work at a site that has 10 injuries a year but only 2 are recordable, if you have the resources to do all 10, I certainly would. It is likely the only difference between the 2 and the other 8 is……LUCK.

What if you have more than you can possibly investigate? Then you should do a really good job at categorization, and do investigations on the TRENDS. In other words, I would rather have you do one really good investigation on a trend than dozens of sub-standard investigations. You will use less resources but get better results.

How do you do an investigation on a trend? It is really very simple – instead of mapping out an incident with a SnapCharT®, you map out the process. You can leave the circle for the incident off the chart or you can make the circle the trend itself. The events timeline is simply the way the process flows from start to finish, and this is very easy to do if you understand the process. If you need help from the process owner, an SME, or employee, you can do that too. For conditions, you add everything you know about the process, as well as any data (evidence) available from the reports or other sources. You mark significant issues (the equivalent of causal factors) for things that you know have gone wrong in the past. You can take it a step further any also mark as significant issues things that COULD go wrong (think of this as potential causal factors). You then do your root cause analysis and corrective actions. This is not hard, it is just a different way of thinking.

Just a few more thoughts about what to investigate; basically, anything that is causing you pain. Process delays, customer complaints, downtime, etc. can all be investigated. But by all means, make sure it is worth your time and that there is really something to learn from it. Please don’t investigate paper cuts!

I hope my ideas give you some food for thought. Keep pushing the boulder up the hill and improving your business. Thanks for visiting the blog.

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