Category: Investigations

ACE – How do you find the root causes?

August 16th, 2017 by

Ace clipart four aces playing cards 0071 1002 1001 1624 SMU

First, for those not in the nuclear industry …

What is an ACE?

An ACE is an Apparent Cause Evaluation.

In the nuclear industry management promotes official reporting of ALL problems. The result? Many problem reports don’t deserve a full root cause analysis (like those performed for major investigation).

So how do nuclear industry professionals perform an ACE?

There is no standard method. But many facilities use the following “system” for the evaluation:

  1. Don’t waste a lot of time performing the evaluation.
  2. Make your best guess as to the cause.
  3. Develop a simple corrective action.
  4. Submit the evaluation for approval and add the corrective actions into the tracking and prioritization system.

That’s it.

How does that work? Not so good. Read about my opinion of the results here:

The Curse of Apparent Cause Analysis

That article is pretty old (2006), but my opinion hasn’t changed much.

So what do I recommend for simple incidents that don’t get a full investigation (a full investigation is described in Using TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis for Major Investigations)? I describe the process fully in:

Using the Essential TapRooT® Techniques to Investigate Low-to-Medium Risk Incidents

Here’s a flow chart of the process…

SimpleProcess

For all investigations you need to find out what REALLY happened. Then you make an important decision …

Is there anything worth learning here?

Many investigations will stop here. There is nothing worth spending more time investigating OR fixing.

The example in the book is someone falling while walking on a sidewalk.

If you decide there IS more to learn, then a simplified TapRooT® Process is used.

This process includes identifying Causal Factors, finding their root causes using the Root Cause Tree® Diagram, and developing fixes using the Corrective Action Helper® Guide.

That’s it. No Generic Cause Analysis and no fixing Generic Causes.

Want to learn more? Read the book. Get your copy here:

http://www.taproot.com/store/TapRooT-and-reg-investigation-Essentials-Book-set.html

Can Regulators Use TapRooT® Investigation Tools?

August 15th, 2017 by

Regulator Inspection Investigation

I had a question recently from one of our friends who works as a regulator in his country. He was wondering about the advantages of using TapRooT® as a regulator as opposed to an industry user. I think this is a great question.  We often think about doing incident investigations for ourselves, but how do you help those you oversee as a regulating body?

As a government agency, you have great potential to affect the safety and health of both your employees and those you oversee.

  • Just attending the TapRooT® training will give your staff the basic understanding of true, human-performance based root causes.  It gives your team a new perspective on why people make poor decisions, and just as importantly, why people make good decisions.  This understanding will guide your thinking as to why problems occur.   Once this perspective is clear, your team will no longer be tempted to just blame the individual for problems.  They will think more deeply about the organizational issues that are causing people to make bad decisions.
  • The training will give you the tools to perform accurate, consistent investigations.  You can have confidence in knowing that your team has discovered not one or 2 issues, but all the problems that led to an incident.
  • Your investigations and investigation report reviews using TapRooT® will be based on human performance expertise, helping to eliminate your team’s biases.  EVERYONE has biases, and using TapRooT® helps keep you focused on the true reasons people make mistakes.
  • You will also have the tools to be able to more accurately assess the adequacy of the investigations and corrective actions that are submitted to you by those you oversee.  You can see where they are doing good investigations, and where they probably need to improve.  The corrective actions that are suggested by those you oversee are often poorly written and do not address the real reasons for the incident.  The TapRooT® training will ensure you are seeing effective corrective actions.
  • If your agency conducts trending of the their results, you’ll be able to produce consistent, trendable data from your investigations.  If you ensure your industry constituents are also using TapRooT®, the data you receive from them will also allow for more accurate trending results.
  • Finally, you can use the TapRooT® tools learned during the course to perform proactive audits of your industry partners.  When you perform onsite inspections, you can ensure you are looking for the right problems, and assigning effective corrective actions for the problems encountered.  Instead of just looking for the same problems, the tools allow you to look deeper at the processes you are inspecting to find and correct potential issues before they become incidents.

TapRooT® gives you confidence that the results of your investigations, and those of those you oversee, result in fixable root causes and effective corrective actions.

Dam leaks oil into Snake River. Time for an environmental incident root cause analysis?

August 11th, 2017 by

Monumental Dam

The Army Corps of Engineers reported that an estimated 742 gallons of oil leaked from a hydroelectric generator into the Snake River. The generator is part of the Monumental Lock and Dam. 

We often talk about the opportunity for an advanced root cause analysis (TapRooT®) evaluation of a safety or quality incident. This is a good example of an opportunity to apply advanced root cause analysis to an environmental issue.

What Does a Bad Day Look Like? Bike Accidents at RR Crossings – Lessons from the University of Tennessee

August 8th, 2017 by

Bike Accident

One of our Australian TapRooT® Instructors sent we a link to an article about a University of Tennessee safety study. I thought it was interesting and would pass it along. The video was amazing. Ouch! For the research article, see:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214140516303450?via%3Dihub

Interviewing and Evidence Collection Tip: Why Sketch the Scene?

August 3rd, 2017 by

Sketch the scene after video and photography.

So, an incident occurred and you’re moving along in your evidence collection efforts.  You’ve recorded the scene with both video and photography. You’re feeling pretty good about your documentation.  Is there any reason to also sketch the scene?

Yes, there are – and here are two very good reasons:

1. Sketching the scene on paper is valuable because photographs and video can make objects appear closer together or farther apart than they really are.  If the evidence needs to have proportional measurements included in it, sketch it!

2. Sketches can be used in sensitive situations.  For example, if the recordings (photographs and videos) of an accident scene are disturbing to witnesses, you can use sketches of the scene when interviewing them.

To learn more about evidence collection, join me in Houston, Texas in November for a 3-day root cause analysis and evidence collection course, or just 1 day of evidence collection training.

How Much Do You Believe?

August 1st, 2017 by

I was talking to my kids about things they read (or YouTube videos) on the internet and asked them …

How much of what you see online do you believe?

I told them that less than half of what I see or read online is believable (maybe way less than half).

But the next question I asked was more difficult …

How do you know if something is believable? How would you prove it?

This made them think …

I said that I have a lifetime of experience that I can use to judge if something sounds believable or not. Of course, that isn’t proof … but it does make me suspicious when something sounds too good to be true.

They didn’t have much life experience and therefore find it harder to judge when things are too good to be true.

However, we all need to step back and think … How can I prove something?

What does that have to do about accident and incident investigations?

Do you have a built-in lie detector that helps you judge when someone is making up a story?

I think I’ve seen that experienced investigators develop a sense of when someone is making up a story.

We all need to think about how we collect and VERIFY facts. Do we just accept stories that we are told or can we verify them with physical evidence.

The 1-Day TapRooT® Effective Interviewing & Evidence Collection Course that will be held in Houston on November 8th will help you think about your interviews and evidence collection to make your SnapCharT® fact based. In addition to the 1-Day Interviewing Course you can also sign up for the 2-Day TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Course being held in Houston on November 6-8 by CLICKING HERE.

NewImage

Barb Phillips will be the instructor for the Effective Interviewing & Evidence Collection Course. Don’t miss it!

Interviewing and Evidence Collection: Prepare to Record the Scene

July 27th, 2017 by

In TapRooT®, we use a mnemonic to quickly remember what types of evidence we may want to collect after an incident occurs: 3 Ps & an R. This stands for:

People evidence
Paper evidence
Physical evidence and
Recording evidence.

Recordings may include any photographs or video you capture. It may also include archived recordings such as computer data or security video.

Today, I have some quick reminders about things to consider in preparation of recording the scene (video or photographs).

First, ensure the battery is fully charged. I know, this is elementary right? Well, it is until you don’t do it and the battery dies in the middle of recording.

Second, remember to turn on the time and date display functions.  Then, you will have an automatic record of when the video was recorded or the photographs were taken without writing it down anywhere.

Third, clear the area of people.  Why? You do not want to record any embarrassing or inaccurate statements on video,  and you don’t want to place people at the scene who were not there originally on video or in a photograph.

To learn more about evidence collection, join me in Houston, Texas in November for a 3-day root cause analysis and evidence collection course, or just 1 day of evidence collection training.

Is There Just One Root Cause for a Major Accident?

July 26th, 2017 by

NewImage

Some people might say that the Officer of The Deck on the USS Fitzgerald goofed up. He turned in front of a containership and caused an accident.

Wait a second. Major accidents are NEVER that simple. There are almost always multiple things that went wrong. Multiple “Causal Factors” that could be eliminated and … if they were … would have prevented the accident or significantly reduced the accident’s consequences.

The “One Root Cause” assumption gets many investigators in trouble when performing a root cause analysis. They think they can ask “why” five times and find THE ROOT CAUSE.

TapRooT® Investigators never make this “single root cause” mistake. They start by developing a complete sequence of events that led to the accident. They do this by drawing a SnapCharT® (either using yellow stickies or using the TapRooT® Software).

They then use one of several methods to make sure they identify ALL the Causal Factors.

When they have identified the Causal Factors, they aren’t done. They are just getting started.

EACH of the Causal Factors are taken through the TapRooT® Root Cause Tree®, using the Root Cause Tree® Dictionary,  and all the root causes for each Causal Factor are identified.

That’s right. There may be more than one root cause for each Causal Factor. Think of it as there may be more than one best practice to implement to prevent that Causal Factor from happening again.

TapRooT® Investigators go even one step further. They look for Generic Causes.

What is a Generic Cause? The system problem that allowed the root cause to exist.

Here’s a simple example. Let’s say that you find a simple typo in a procedure. That typo cause an error.

Of course, you would fix the typo. But you would also ask …

Why was the typo allowed to exist?

Wasn’t there a proofing process? Why didn’t operators who used the procedure in the past report the problem they spotted (assuming that this is the first time there was an error and the procedure had been used before)?

You might find that there is an ineffective proofing process or that the proofing process isn’t being performed. You might find that operators had previously reported the problem but it had never been fixed.

If you find there is a Generic Cause, you then have to think about all the other procedures that might have similar problems and how to fix the system problem (or problems). Of course, ideas to help you do this are included in the TapRooT® Corrective Action Helper® Guide.

So, in a major accident like the wreck of the USS Fitzgerald, there are probably multiple mistakes that were made (multiple Causal Factors), multiple root causes, some Generic Causes, and lots of corrective actions that could improve performance and stop future collisions.

To learn advanced root cause analysis, attend a public TapRooT® Courses. See the dates and locations here:

http://www.taproot.com/store/Courses/

Or schedule a course at your facility for 10 or more of people. CLICK HERE to get a quote for a course at your site.

Where did you eat last weekend? (or, why do companies continue to not learn from their mistakes?)

July 24th, 2017 by

Happy Monday. I hope everyone had a good weekend and got recharged for the week ahead.

Every few weeks, I get a craving for Mexican food. Maybe a sit-down meal with a combo plate and a Margarita, maybe Tex-Mex or maybe traditional. It’s all good.

Sometimes, though, a simple California Style Burrito does the trick. This weekend was one of those weekends. Let’s see, what are my choices…? Moe’s, Willy’s, Qdoba, Chipotle?

Chipotle? What??!!!

Unfortunately, Chipotle is back in the news. More sick people. Rats falling from the ceiling. Not good.

It seems like we have been here before. I must admit I did not think they would survive last time, but they did. What about this time? In the current world of social media we shall see.

For those of us in safety or quality, the story is all too familiar. The same problem keeps happening. Over and Over…and Over

So why do companies continue to not learn from mistakes? A few possible reasons:

**They don’t care
**They are incompetent
**They don’t get to true root causes when investigating problems
**They write poor corrective actions
**They don’t have the systems in place for good performance or performance improvement

TapRooT® can help with the last three. Please join us at a future course; you can see the schedule and enroll HERE

So, what do you think? Why do companies not learn from their mistakes? Leave comments below.

By the way, my Burrito from Moe’s was great!

Interviewing and Evidence Collection Tip: The #1 mistake when collecting Paper evidence

July 20th, 2017 by

 

In TapRooT®, we use a mnemonic to quickly remember what types of evidence we may want to collect after an incident occurs: 3 Ps & an R. This stands for:

People evidence
Paper evidence
Physical evidence and
Recording evidence.

Today we are going to discuss the #1 mistake investigators make when collecting Paper evidence. Paper evidence may include all sorts of things including:

  • regulatory paperwork
  • activity specific paperwork
  • personnel paperwork
  • policy and procedure paperwork and
  • equipment manuals.

What do you think the biggest mistake is when it comes to collecting Paper evidence… given all of the paper that we have in our workplaces?

The #1 mistake is: Collecting too much paper that is not relevant to the investigation!

You don’t need to collect every piece of paper at your facility. How do you know what you don’t need? By looking at your SnapCharT®! You need all the paper that supports your timeline of events and supports the facts.  If you use the TapRooT® software, you can easily upload .pdfs of this paperwork and highlight relevant pages in your report to management.

Don’t make the mistake of collecting so much paper that what you need for evidence is somewhere at the bottom of the stack. Use your SnapCharT® to guide you and keep your paper evidence organized in the TapRooT® software.

To learn more about evidence collection, join me in Houston, Texas in November for a 3-day root cause analysis and evidence collection course, or just 1 day of evidence collection training.

 

How Long Should a Root Cause Analysis Take?

July 18th, 2017 by

How long should a root cause analysis take? This is a question that I’m frequently asked. 

Of course, the answer is … It DEPENDS!

Depends on what?

  • How complex is the incident?
  • Are there complex tests that need to be performed to troubleshoot equipment issues?
  • Is everyone available to be interviewed?
  • Is there regulatory coordination/interference (for instance … do they take control of the scene or the evidence)?
  • How far do you want to dig into generic causes?
  • What level of proof do you need to support your conclusions?

However, I believe most investigations should be completed in a couple of weeks or at most a couple of months.

Now for the exceptions…

REGULATORY DELAYS: We helped facilitate a major investigation that was progressing until the regulators took the evidence. They stated that they needed it for their investigation. Their investigation dragged on for over a year. Finally, they announced their findings and released the evidence back to the company. It turned out that none of the evidence sequestered by the government had anything to do with the reason for their investigation being delayed (they were doing complex modeling and videos to demonstrate their conclusions). After about an additional two months, the company investigation was completed. The companies investigation was delayed for over a year unnecessarily. 

SLOW INVESTIGATION DELAYED BY UNCOOPERATIVE PARTICIPANTS: One of the longest root cause analyses I’ve ever seen took four years. The agency performing the investigation is notoriously slow when performing investigations but this investigation was slow even by their standards. What happened? The investigation had multiple parties that were suing each other over the accident and some of the parties would not comply with a subpoena. The agency had to take the unwilling participant to court. Eventually, the evidence was provided but it took almost a year for the process to play out.

NewImage

SLOW INVESTIGATION PROCESSES: The most recent bad example is the Alison Canyon Natural Gas Storage leak root cause analysis. The investigation started when the leak was stopped 18 months ago. But the root cause analysis still is not finished. Why? Is seems the process is mired in public hearings. The spokesperson for the California Public Utilities Commission said that the “study” was in the third phase of a five phase process. What was slowing the “study” (root cause analysis and corrective actions) down? Public hearings. Here is what an article in NGI Daily Gas Prices said:

A California Public Utilities Commission spokesperson said the study remains in the third of a five-phase process that is to take more than three years. The third phase is expected to take up to nine months, and the fourth phase more than two months, before the final phase of “integration and interpretation” of the results is issued.

The process is scheduled to take three years! That definitely makes any kind of timely root cause analysis impossible. 

CONCLUSION: Many people complain about the time it takes for a good root cause analysis. But most excessive delays have nothing to do with the root cause analysis process that is chosen. Excessive delays are usually political, due to uncooperative participants, or regulatory red tape. 

Spin A Cause

Don’t try to save time on an investigation by picking the fastest root causes analysis tool (for example … Spin-a-Cause™), rather pick an advanced root cause analysis tool (TapRooT®) that will get you superior results in a reasonable amount of time and effort. 

One more idea…

Learn from smaller but significant incidents to avoid major accidents that have huge public relations and regulatory complications. Learning from smaller incidents can be much faster and save considerable headaches and money. 

What is the Root Cause of the USS Fitzgerald Collision?

July 17th, 2017 by

NewImage

As a root cause analysis expert and former US Navy Officer who was qualified as a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) and was qualified to stand underway steaming Officer of the Deck watches, I’ve had many friends ask me what was the root cause of the collision of the USS Fitzgerald.

Of course, the answer is that all the facts aren’t yet in. But that never keeps us from speculation…

But before I speculate, let’s honor the seven crew members who died as a result of this accident: Dakota Kyle Rigsby. Shingo Alexander Douglass. Ngoc T Truong Huynh. Noe Hernandez. Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan. Xavier Alec Martin. Gary Leo Rehm Jr.

Also, let’s note that the reason for good root cause analysis is to prevent fatalities and injuries by solving the problems discovered in an accident to keep a similar repeat accident from happening in the future.

Mia Culpa: It’s been a long time since I stood a bridge watch. I’m not familiar with the current state of naval readiness and training. However, my general opinion is that you should never turn in front of a containership. They are big. Even at night you can see them (commercial ships are often lit up). They are obvious on even a simple radar. So what could have gone wrong?

1. It was the middle of the night. I would bet that one thing that has not changed since I was in the Navy is FATIGUE. It would be interesting to see the Oficer of the Deck’s and the Conning Officer’s (if there was one) sleep schedule for the previous seven days. Fatigue was rampant when I was at sea in the navy. “Stupid” mistakes are often made by fatigued sailors. And who is to blame for the fatigue? It is built into the system. It is almost invisible. It is so rampant that no one even asks about it. You are suppose to be able to do your job with no sleep. Of course, this doesn’t work.

2. Where was the CO? I heard that the ship was in a shipping lane. Even though it was the middle of the night, I thought … where was the Commanding Officer? Our standing orders (rules for the Officer of the Deck) had us wake the CO if a contact (other ship) was getting close. If we had any doubt, we were to get him to the bridge (usually his sea cabin was only a couple of steps from the bridge). And the CO’s on the ships I was on were ALWAYS on the bridge when we were in a shipping lane. Why? Because in shipping lanes you are constantly having nearby contacts. Sometimes the CO even slept in their bridge chair, if nothing was going on, just so they would be handy if something happened. Commander Benson (the CO) had only been in his job for a month. He had previously been the Executive Officer. Did this have any impact on his relationship with bridge watchstanders?

3. Where was the CIC watch team?  On a Navy ship you have support. Besides the bridge watch team, you are supported by the Combat Information Center. They constantly monitor the radars for contacts (other ships or aircraft) and they should contact the Officer of the Deck if they see any problems. If the OOD doesn’t respond … they can contact the Commanding Officer (this would be rare – I never saw it done). Why didn’t they intervene?

4. Chicken of the Sea. Navy ships are notorious for staying away from other ships. Many Captains of commercial shipping referred to US Navy ships as “chickens of the sea” because they steered clear of any other traffic. Why was the Fitzgerald so close to commercial shipping?

5. Experience. One thing I always wonder about is the experience of the crew and especially the officers on a US Navy ship. Typically, junior officers stand Officer of the Deck watches at sea. They have from a two to three year tour of duty and standing bridge watches is one of many things they do. Often, they don’t have extensive experience as an Officer of the Deck. How much experience did this watch team have? Once again, the experience of the team is NOT the team’s fault. It is a product of the system to train naval officers. Did it play a factor?

6. Two crews. The US Navy is trying out a new way of manning ships with two crews. One crew is off while the other goes to sea. This keeps the ship on station longer than a crew could stand to be deployed. But the crew is less familiar with the ship as they are only on it about 1/2 the time. I read some articles about this and couldn’t tell if the USS Fitzgerald was in this program or not (the program is for forward deployed ships like the Fitzgerald). Was this another factor?

These six factors are some of the many factors that investigators should be looking into. Of course, with a TapRooT® investigation, we would start with a detailed SnapCharT® of what happened BEFORE we would collect facts about why the Causal Factors happened. Unfortunately, the US Navy doesn’t do TapRooT® investigations. Let’s hope this investigation gets beyond blame to find the real root causes of this fatal collision at sea.

Interviewing and Evidence Collection Tip: 3 Goals for Packaging Physical Evidence

July 13th, 2017 by

 

When it comes to packaging physical evidence during evidence collection, there are three distinct goals.

  1.  Protect employees from hazardous evidence.  There may be biohazards associated with the evidence being packaged or the evidence may have sharp edges that could harm an employee who tries to handle it.  Protecting employees from hazardous evidence is a consideration when packaging it.  Label the evidence to clearly warn anyone who handles it of the hazard.
  2. Protect the evidence.  Protect the evidence from loss, contamination or deterioration when packaging it.  This may include packing the evidence in a container that is not too large or small, drying the evidence before packing it if it is wet or storing it in proper temperature.
  3. Label the evidence properly. Labeling the evidence properly includes: a) a description of what is contained in the packaging; b) where it was when it was collected; c) chain of custody; d) a unique identifier, such as a number, so that it not confused with other evidence.

Packaging physical evidence is important to preserving it for the duration of the investigation.  With these three goals in mind, you’ll be off to a good start.

To learn more about evidence collection, join me in Houston, Texas in November for a 3-day root cause analysis and evidence collection course, or just 1 day of evidence collection training.

Thanks for joining me for this week’s tip!  See you next week!

 

Should Helicopter Go Back in Service Before the Root Cause Analysis of a Crash is Finished?

July 12th, 2017 by

NewImage

Finishing a root cause analysis before returning the Super Puma to service in the North Sea is the issue that the Unite union is upset about.

The UK and Norwegian Civil Aviation Authorities have authorized the flights but several oil companies are reluctant to resume using the helicopters before the root cause analysis is complete.

For the whole story, see: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-40567877

Can bad advice make improvements more likely?

July 12th, 2017 by

Here is what a consultant recently wrote in a blog article that was republished on LinkedIn:

“The 5 WHY analysis is a simple and very effective technique.”

What do I think about 5 Whys? It is simple but it is NOT effective. Proof of the lack of effectiveness is all over the place. See these articles to find out just some of what I’ve written about the effectiveness of 5 Whys in the past:

 An Example of 5 Whys – Is this Root Cause Analysis? Let Me Know Your Thoughts…

What’s Fundamentally Wrong with 5-Whys?

Teruyuki Minoura (Toyota Exec) Talks About Problems with 5-Whys

Under Scrutiny (page 32)

If your root cause analysis is having problems, don’t double down on 5 whys by asking more whys. The problem is the root cause analysis system (5 Whys) and not your ability to ask why effectively.

The problem is that the techniques wasn’t designed with human capabilities and limitations in mind.

What system was developed with a human factors perspective? The TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis System. Read more about how TapRooT® was designed here:

http://www.taproot.com/products-services/about-taproot

Or get the book that explains how TapRooT® can help your leadership improve performance:

TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Leadership Lessons

Interviewing and Evidence Collection Tip: Interviews are Valuable People Evidence

July 6th, 2017 by

Evidence collected from interviews is an important component of evidence collection.

Evidence collected from interviews is an important component of evidence collection.

In TapRooT®, we use a mnemonic to quickly remember what types of evidence we may want to collect after an incident occurs: 3 Ps & an R. This stands for:

People evidence
Paper evidence
Physical evidence and
Recording evidence.

When people think about evidence collection, sometimes they focus on paper evidence (such as collecting policies, procedures, permits, HR records), physical evidence (such as collecting broken equipment and fluid samples), or recording evidence (such as taking or collecting photographs and videos).  They don’t always think of interviewing as evidence, and in spite of the fact that this weekly column is called “Interviewing and Evidence Collection,” interviewing is evidence collection.

Most of the time in a workplace incident investigation, the majority of the evidence will come from people evidence, especially interviews. Often, evidence collection will start there and guide the investigator to collect other types of evidence.

People evidence includes information about those involved with the incident as well as information from those who may not have been there but may have knowledge to provide (example: an expert witness).

We’ve spent a lot of time developing the TapRooT™ 12-Step Interview Process which is a very effective method of getting both quality and quantity of information from an interviewee. This technique is taught in both our 5-Day TapRooT® Advanced Root Cause Analysis Team Leader Training and our 1-Day Effective Interviewing and Evidence Collection Techniques Course.

Today, we want to offer you some free resources to help you collect valuable people evidence through interviews:

Video:  The Cognitive Interview

Video: How to Interpret Body Language

Top 3 Worst Practices in Root Cause Analysis Interviewing

Thanks for joining me for this evidence collection tip.  See you next week!

What happens when root cause analysis becomes too simple? Six problems I’ve observed.

July 5th, 2017 by

I’ve had many people explain to me that they understand that for serious incidents, they need robust root cause analysis (TapRooT®) because … finding effective fixes is essential. But for simple incidents, they just can’t invest the same effort that they use for major investigations.

I get it. And I agree. You can’t put the same level of effort into a simple incident that you put into a major accident. But what happens when the effort you put into a simple incident is too little. What happens when your simple investigation becomes too simple?

Here are the results that I’ve observed when people perform “too simple” investigations.

1. The first story heard is analyzed as fact.

People doing simple investigations often take the first “story” they hear about a simple incident and start looking for “causes”. The shortcut – not verifying what you hear – means that simple investigations are sometimes based on fairy tales. The real facts are never discovered. The real root causes are unknown. And the corrective actions? They are just ideas based on a fantasy world.

The result? The real problems never get fixed and they are left in place to cause future incidents. If the problems have the potential to cause more serious accidents … you have a ticking time bomb.

2. Assumptions become facts.

This is somewhat similar to the first issue. However, in this case the investigator fills in holes in the story they heard with assumptions. Because the investigator doesn’t have time to collect much info, these assumptions become facts and become the basis for the root cause analysis and corrective actions.

The result? Just like the first issue, real problems never get fixed. The real, undiscovered problems are left in place to cause future incidents. If the problems have the potential to cause more serious accidents … you have a ticking time bomb #2.

3. Skip root cause analysis and go straight to the fixes.

When you don’t have time for the investigation, why not just skip straight to the fixes? After all … we already know what caused the incident … right?

This is a frequent conclusion when people THINK they already know the answers and don’t need to bother with a troublesome investigation and root cause analysis to fix a “simple” problem.

The problems is that without adequate investigation and root cause analysis … you don’t really know if you are addressing the real issues. Do you feel lucky? Well do ya punk? (A little Clint Eastwood imitation.)

NewImage

The result? You are depending on your luck. And the problem you may not solve may be more powerful than a .44 magnum … the most powerful handgun in the world.

OK … if you want to watch the scene, here it is …

4. The illusion of progress.

Management often thinks that even though they don’t give people time to do a good investigation, simple investigations are better than nothing … right?

Management is buying into the illusion of progress. They see some action. People scurry around. Fixes are being recommended and maybe even being implemented (more training). So things must be getting better … right?

NO!

As Alfred A. Montapert said:

Do not confuse motion and progress.
A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress
.”

The result? If people aren’t finding the real root causes, you are mistaking the mistake of assuming that motion is progress. Progress isn’t happening and the motion is wasted effort. How much effort does your company have to waste?

5. Complacency – Just another investigation.

When people in the field see investigators make up facts and fixes, they know the real problems aren’t getting fixed. They see problems happening over and over again. They, too, may think they know the answers. Or they may not. But they are sure that nobody really cares about fixing the problems or management would do a better job of investigating them.

The result? Complacency.

If management isn’t worried about the problems … why should I (the worker) be worried?

This contributes to “the normalization of deviation.” See this LINK is you are interested.

6. Bad habits become established practice.

Do people do more simple investigations or major investigations?

If your company is like most, there are tons of simple investigations and very few major investigations. What happens because of this? The practices used in simple investigations become the practices used in major investigations.

Assumptions, shortcuts, made up fixes and more become the standard practice for investigators. The things they learned in a root cause analysis class aren’t what they practice. What gets practiced (the bad practices) becomes the standard way that business is done.

The result? The same poor standards that apply to simple investigations infect major investigations. Major investigation have the same poor root cause analysis and corrective actions seen in the simple investigations.

DON’T LET BAD PRACTICES INFECT YOUR CULTURE.

Would you like to see good practices for performing simple investigations? Here are two options:

1. Attend a TapRooT® 2-Day Root Cause Analysis Course. See the the dates and location of upcoming public courses here:

http://www.taproot.com/store/2-Day-Courses/

2. Read the new book: Using the Essential TapRooT® Techniques to Investigate Low-to-Medium Risk Incidents. Get your copy here:

http://www.taproot.com/store/TapRooT-and-reg-investigation-Essentials-Book-set.html

Now perform your Basic and Major investigations with TapRooT®

June 27th, 2017 by

TapRooT® is a robust root cause analysis system. When you have those major accidents and need an effective and thorough investigation, TapRooT® is the go-to solution. But what about those smaller, simpler, less complex incidents? Is it worth applying such a complex system for such a simple problem? Well, we think all problems are worth a thorough investigation, but we also realize you can only give up so much time on seemingly less serious incidents. Which is why the folks at TapRooT® decided to make a simpler version of our root cause analysis process so that you can still get the best results in less time.

Check out this video of Ken Reed, TapRooT® instructor and expert, to learn more.

 

7 Traits of a Great Root Cause Analysis Facilitator

June 27th, 2017 by

NewImage

After decades of teaching TapRooT® and being consulted about many investigations, I’ve met lots of root cause analysis facilitators. Some were good. Some were not so good. Some were really superior. Some were horrible. Therefore, I thought it might be interesting to relate what I see that separates the best from the rest. Here are the seven traits of the BEST.

1. They don’t jump to conclusions. The worst investigators I’ve seen think they know it all. They already have their minds made up BEFORE the first interview. They START the investigation to prove their point. They already know the corrective action they are going to apply … so all they have to do is affirm that the causes they already have assumed ARE the cause they find.

What do the best investigators do? They start by seeing where the evidence leads them. The evidence includes:

  • Physical evidence,
  • Paper evidence (documentations),
  • People evidence (interviews), and
  • Recordings (videos/pictures/tapes/computer records).

They are great at collecting evidence without prejudice. They perform “cognitive interviews” to help the interviewee remember as much as possible. (See the new book TapRooT® Evidence Collection and Interviewing Techniques to Sharpen Investigation Skills to learn more about cognitive interviews. The book should be released in August. Get the book with the course being held in November in Houston.)

The best investigators may have some technical knowledge, but they know when they need help to understand what the evidence is telling them. Therefore, they get technical experts when they need them.

2. They understand What before Why. The worst investigators start by asking WHY? Why did someone make a mistake? Why did the part fail? Why didn’t the guilty party use the procedure? These “why” questions tend to put people on the defensive. People start justifying what they did rather than sharing what they know.

The best investigators start with what and how. They want to understand what happened and how those involved reacted. What did they see as the problem? What were the indications they were observing? Who did they talk to and what did they say? What was happening and in what order did it happen?

People don’t get defensive about what and how questions. They are much more likely to share information and tell the truth. And these questions help develop an excellent SnapCharT® that helps the root cause analysis facilitator develop a “picture” of what happened.

3. They are not looking for the single root cause. The worst investigators are always looking for THE root cause. The smoking gun. The one thing that caused the problem that can be corrected by a simple corrective action. THE root cause that they are looking for.

The best investigators know that most accidents have multiple things that went wrong. They facilitate their team to understand all the causal factors and how these causal factors came together to cause that particular incident.

These root cause facilitators use their SnapCharT® and Safeguard Analysis to show how the problems came together to cause the incident. This can help show management how latent condition are hidden traps waiting to produce an accident that previously seemed impossible.

4. They dig deeper to find root causes. The worst investigator stop when they identify simple problems. For the worst investigators, HUMAN ERROR is a root cause.

The best investigators know that human error is just a starting point for a root cause analysis. They go beyond equipment failure and beyond human error by using effective investigative techniques that help them go beyond their own knowledge.

For example, if there is an equipment failure they consult the Equifactor® Troubleshooting Tables to find out more about the failure. This helps them get to the bottom of equipment problems. They often find that equipment failures are caused by human error.

For human performance related causal factors they use the Human Performance Troubleshooting Guide of the Root Cause Tree® to help them determine where they need to dig deeper into the causes of human error.

The best investigators don’t accept false stories. They have a good BS detector because false stories seldom make a sensible SnapCharT®.

5. They find root causes that are fixable. The worst investigators find root causes that management really can’t do anything to prevent. For example, telling people to “try harder” not to make a mistake IS NOT an effective corrective action to stop human errors.

The best investigators know that their are many ways to improve human performance. They understand that trying harder is important but that it is not a long-term solution. They look for human factors related fixes that come from human performance best practices. They know that the Root Cause Tree® can help them find problems with:

  • Procedures
  • Training
  • Quality Control
  • Communications
  • Management Systems
  • Human Engineering
  • Work Direction

And that by implementing best practices related to the root causes they identify, they can reduce the probability of future human errors.

6. They recommend effective corrective actions. The worst investigators recommend the three standard corrective actions for almost every problem:

  1. MORE TRAINING
  2. COUNSELING (tell them to be more careful and fire them if they get caught making the mistake again)
  3. If you are desperate, WRITE A PROCEDURE

That’s about it.

The best investigators start by understanding the risk represented by the incident. Higher risk incidents deserve higher order corrective actions. The highest order is to remove the Hazard. Other corrective actions may be related to strengthening the Safeguards by implementing human performance best practices. Sometimes these corrective actions may include training and procedures but that is seldom the only corrective actions recommended.

7. They know what they are doing. The worst investigators don’t really know what they are doing. They haven’t been trained to find root causes or the training they had was superficial at best. (Can you ask “Why?” five times?)

The best investigators are accomplished professionals. They’ve been in advanced root cause analysis training and have practiced what they have learned by performing many simple investigations before they were asked to jump into a major investigation. Even if they have several major investigations under their belt, they continue to practice their root cause analysis skills on simple investigations and on proactive audits and assessments.

Beyond practicing their skills, they attend the only worldwide summit focused on root cause analysis and investigation facilitation – The Global TapRooT® Summit. At the Summit they benchmark their skills with other facilitators from around the world and share best practices. Think of this as steel sharpening steel.

GOOD NEWS. The knowledge and skills that make the best investigators the best … CAN BE LEARNED.

Where? Have a look at these courses:

http://www.taproot.com/courses

And then plan to attend the 2018 Global TapRooT® Summit in Knoxville, Tennessee, on February 26 – March 2 to sharpen your skills (or have those who work for you sharpen their skills).

NewImage

Interviewing and Evidence Collection Tip: How to Package Physical Evidence

June 21st, 2017 by

Hello and welcome to this week’s column focused on interviewing and evidence collection for root cause analysis of workplace incidents and accidents.  We refer to four basic categories of evidence in our Interviewing & Evidence Techniques training:

  1. People
  2. Paper
  3. Physical
  4. Recordings

Some investigations only require evidence that does not need special packaging such as training records, policies and procedures (paper evidence) and/or interviews of the people who were there (people evidence). While a workplace investigation is not the same as a criminal investigation where physical evidence often requires forensic examination, there are definitely situations where collecting physical evidence is helpful to the root cause investigation.  Here are a few basic tips:

Packaging: Most physical evidence can be stored in paper containers, like envelopes and boxes. There is a plethora of websites that sell packaging material designed specifically for evidence. Wet evidence (such as fabric) should be air dried before packaging because moisture causes rapid deterioration and risks environmental contamination, like mold.   Allow wet evidence to dry thoroughly and then package it. Then store the evidence at room temperature. If the item is not wet and does not need to “breathe” (for example, the evidence is a collection of bolts), you can also use plastic containers for storage.

Sharp objects:  Package sharp objects in a way to ensure the safety of those handling it.  Packaging may include metal cans, plastic or hard cardboard boxes so long as the object will not protrude.

Size: Ensure the packaging is of adequate size. If the packaging is too small for the item, it may fail over time.  If it’s too large, it could become damaged when it moves around the container.

Avoid using staples to seal evidence envelopes:  Staples can damage the evidence.  Tape across the entire flap of an envelope to seal it.

Don’t forget to tag and mark evidence containers so that you will be able to easily identify what is stored in each container at a later date.

If you’re interested in learning more about Interviewing & Evidence Collection, I hope you will join me in Houston, Texas in November for a 3-day root cause analysis + interviewing and evidence collection course or 1-day  interviewing and evidence collection training.

How do you plan your root cause analysis?

June 20th, 2017 by

NewImage

General George Patton said:

“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”

But for many investigations, I might ask … Do you have any plan at all?

NewImage

Copyright © 2016 by System Improvements, Inc. Duplication prohibited. Used by permission.

Planning is the first step in the TapRooT® 7-Step Major Investigation Process. We even recommend a simple plan for simple investigations.

You may have read the earlier article about using a SnapCharT® to plan your investigation (see: http://www.taproot.com/archives/58488)

What else can help you plan your investigation? Here’s a list:

  • Have an investigation policy that specifies team make up and other factors that can be predefined.
  • Make sure that people on the scene are trained to preserve evidence and to obtain witness statements.
  • Consider PPE requirements for team members visiting the scene.
  • Collect any recorded evidence (cell phone recordings).
  • Maintain a chain of custody for evidence.
  • Do you need legal or PR assistance for your team?

That’s just a few ideas. There is a whole chapter about planning in the new book: TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis for Major Investigations.

When you order the new book you will also get the latest copies of theRoot Cause Tree®, the Root Cause Tree® Dictionary, and the Corrective Action Helper® Guide – all of which were recently updated.

Order your copy by CLICKING HERE.

Monday Accident and Lessons Learned: Incorrect Pressure Gauge

June 19th, 2017 by

Incorrect Pressure Gauge

Correct Pressure Gauge

The IOGP recently released that in September 2015, the incorrect pressure gauge was used on a high pressure supply line causing a high pressure release. When investigating, they found that the two gauges are identical in appearance, were stored in the same place and were stored in the incorrect place for convenience purposes. What are the corrective actions? Better storage of all pressure gauges, check all gauges before installing them, and check all current gauges to ensure they are being used correctly.

What are your thoughts on this incident? The investigation? The corrective actions?

(Resource: IOGP Safety Alerts)

Troubleshooting and Root Cause Analysis Issues Keep Military from Finding and Fixing the Causes of Oxygen Issues on Military Aircraft

June 15th, 2017 by

NewImage

Let me start by saying that when you have good troubleshooting and good root cause analysis, you fix problems and stop having repeat incidents. Thus, a failure to stop problems by developing effective corrective actions is an indication of poor troubleshooting and bad root cause analysis.

Reading an article in Flight Global, I decided that the military must have poor troubleshooting and bad root cause analysis. Why? Because Vice Admiral Groskiags testified to congress that:

“We’re not doing well on the diagnosis,” Grosklags told senators this week.
“To date, we have been unable to find any smoking guns.”

 What aircraft are affected? It seems there are a variety of problems with the F/A-18, T-45, F-35. F-22, and T-45. The article above is about Navy and Marine Corps problems but Air Force jets have experience problems as well.

Don’t wait for your problems to become operation critical. Improve your troubleshooting and root cause analysis NOW! Read about our 5-Day TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Team Leader Course HERE.

Flint Water Crisis: 5 Michigan Officials Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter

June 15th, 2017 by

 

Yesterday, five Michigan officials were charged with involuntary manslaughter related to the Flint, Michigan water crisis. Recall that in 2014, Flint switched its water source from Detroit to the Flint River in part to save money. It didn’t take long before residents noticed a difference in the way their water tasted and smelled.  The water caused some residents to get life-threatening Legionnaires disease and the medical community identified higher levels of lead in children’s blood (this type of exposure to lead can lead to developmental issues).

Learn more on NPR.

News stories like this are tragic because they are avoidable.  TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis shifts thinking from ineffective blame to effective solutions.  TapRooT® can be used proactively too to avoid these types of devastating problems from ever happening.

Learn more in our 2-day or 5-day root cause analysis courses.

 

Connect with Us

Filter News

Search News

Authors

Angie ComerAngie Comer

Software

Barb PhillipsBarb Phillips

Editorial Director

Chris ValleeChris Vallee

Human Factors

Dan VerlindeDan Verlinde

VP, Software

Dave JanneyDave Janney

Safety & Quality

Gabby MillerGabby Miller

Marketing

Garrett BoydGarrett Boyd

Technical Support

Ken ReedKen Reed

VP, Equifactor®

Linda UngerLinda Unger

Co-Founder

Mark ParadiesMark Paradies

Creator of TapRooT®

Per OhstromPer Ohstrom

VP, Sales

Shaun BakerShaun Baker

Technical Support

Steve RaycraftSteve Raycraft

Technical Support

Wayne BrownWayne Brown

Technical Support

Success Stories

If you are a TapRooT® User, you may think that the TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis System exists to help people find root causes. But there is more to it than that. TapRooT® exists to: Save lives Prevent injuries Improve product/service quality Improve equipment reliability Make work easier and more productive Stop sentinel events Stop the …

Alaska Airlines adopted System Safety and incorporated TapRooT® into the process to find the root causes…

Alaska Airlines
Contact Us