May 12, 2021 | Mark Paradies

TapRooT® Summit History: 1994-2021

Summit Participants

TapRooT® Summit History and Future…

We started planning the first Global TapRooT® Summit (back then it was called the TapRooT® Conference) in 1993. Ever since the success of the first Summit, we have been improving each year throughout the Summit’s history to make the Summit the best place to:

  • Meet and network with performance improvement experts
  • Benchmark best practices from around the world
  • Learn the latest techniques for performance improvement, incident, investigation, and root cause analysis
  • Improve your safety, risk management, quality, operational excellence, and reliability programs
  • Have fun while learning

We have developed an outstanding event that you will enjoy and take back valuable lessons to your company. How valuable will these lessons be? So valuable that we provide this guarantee:

Attend the 2020 Global TapRooT® Summit. Go back to
work and implement
your road map to success. If you
don’t save 10 times the cost of your attendance

at the Summit, let us know and return your
Summit materials and we will refund 100%
of the Summit registration fee.
This guarantee shows how certain
we are that you will learn valuable best practices
to take your facility’s performance to the next level.

Below is a history of the Summit from 1994-2020 and a preview of 2021.

downtown Knoxville TapRooT® Summit

The 2021 Global TapRooT® Summit will be held in Knoxville, TN, on June 14-18 both in-person and VIRTUALLY. Read on to see how the Summit developed over the years.

But first, …

Why Did We Create the Summit?

Simple, we saw a need to help people improve performance and share best practices across industries, professions, and countries.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were many professional society conferences focused on safety, quality, and engineering topics. But there wasn’t a conference focused on incident investigation, root cause analysis, and performance improvement that crossed technical and industry boundaries.

Beyond that, many conferences focused on research and Ph.D. discussions (valuable discussions for those interested in research) but failed to make the link to the practical application of knowledge to industrial settings. Setting like those where people used TapRooT®:

  • oil refineries
  • mining
  • aerospace
  • oil exploration and production
  • nuclear plants
  • high tech manufacturing
  • shipping
  • pipelines
  • rail and light rail
  • chemical plants
  • electricity transmission and distribution
  • construction
  • hospitals
  • and so many more

Therefore, we decided to put together a one-of-a-kind meeting where people could share their experience, learn to apply the latest research, and meet in small groups with leading industry experts and share information and ideas across industry and organizational/professional boundaries.

And even at the very first Summit, we wanted to have international participants to get as broad a perspective as possible.

We didn’t have a not-for-profit society to organize, publicize, and pay for a meeting. In 1993, with a staff of just four people, we decided to go ahead and sponsor the meeting ourselves. Why did we assume the work and cost of organizing a Summit? Because we felt that our clients needed the knowledge, best practices, and learning that we thought we could share in a Summit format.

That need for learning practical improvement knowledge by our clients was the reason we organized the first Summit and is the reason we continue to organize and sponsor the TapRooT® Summit to this day


Our first Keynote Speaker was Dr. Charles O. Hopkins, a human factors expert, and my mentor. He spoke to the 33 participants about applying human factors to improve human performance.

We held many sessions on root cause analysis and incident investigation and shared ideas on improving performance.

We ended the Summit with a steak cookout at Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains. How did we pull it off? Seriously, I look back and don’t know. But we knew we would do it again.

2nd SUMMIT – 1995 – ORLANDO

Disney was a great place to hold the second Summit. The Orlando Summit was the first Summit to include a pre-Summit TapRooT® Course. With 77 people attending the Orlando Summit, we invented the Name Game as a way to maximize networking.


Our third Summit institutionalized sponsoring a social activity. In Nashville, the choice was clear – the Grand Ole Opry.

Again, the number of people attending grew. Plus, as usual, we were ahead of our time. The 1996 Summit had a session dedicated to learning from medical errors at hospitals (three years before the publication of Lucian Leape’s call to action: To Err Is Human – Building a Safer Health System).



1997 was the first Summit in Texas and the first Summit with over 100 participants. It was bigger and better in every way. More networking, learning, speakers, tracks, and pre-Summit Courses. And everyone enjoyed the Alamo reception and the Riverwalk just outside the hotel.

5th SUMMIT – 1998 – DALLAS

The Southfork Ranch hosted the 1998 Summit. A JR look-alike crashed the Summit party at JR’s mansion. Everybody had a blast.

Award Presentation

This Summit was also the start of TapRooT® Users presenting Success Stories. A great way to share best practices.

Because in the early years we held the Summit every 14-16 months, after the November 1998 Summit, we skipped 1999 and held the next Summit in March of 2000.


Remember the Y2K scare? Well, we all made it through it and had the 2000 Summit.

Austronaut Mike Mulane

Above are Mark Paradies and Linda Unger with Shuttle Astronaut Mike Mullane our Friday keynote speaker. He explained the first Shuttle disaster and how Summit attendees could achieve operational excellence.


2001 Summit almost didn’t happen. Two days before the Summit, a tropical storm dropped two FEET of rain on Houston and Galveston! But the show went on…

At the Summit, we had great Keynote Speakers. That’s Mark and Ed with one of the keynote speakers. Also, Dr. John Grout talked about how mistake-proofing (Poka-Yoke) fits into an improvement program.


Back to Gatlinburg for the 8th TapRooT® Summit. That’s Linda, below, introducing one of the Best Practice Session Speakers from Alaska Airlines.

Other speakers included people from the NTSB and Tennessee OSHA.

Participants said it couldn’t get any better. But they were wrong. We continued to improve!

9th SUMMIT – 2003 – DALLAS

We liked the Southfork Ranch so much that we went back in 2003. Of course, there were great keynote speakers, including Beverly Inman-Ebel (pictured below).

At the 9th Summit, we had the first TapRooT® Advisory Board Dinner. Below is Linda Unger with some of the TapRooT® Advisory Board members.

And we had another great Wednesday night reception/party! Michele Lindsay won the quick draw competition.

10th SUMMIT – 2005 – SAN ANTONIO

Wow! Interesting keynote speakers, great networking, and tons of best practice sharing. The Summit that couldn’t get better (according to the previous year’s participants’ feedback) hit a new high.

The Advisory Board went on a Riverwalk cruise.


Mark Paradies - Keynote Speaker

That’s Mark Paradies, one of the Keynote Speakers, giving a talk about performance improvement. Everyone went home with many new best practices to share.

12th SUMMIT – 2007 – SAN ANTONIO

Commercial Electrician, Lighting & Sign Contractor San Antonio, TX | FSG

The 2012 San Antonio TapRooT® Summit was the first Summit with more than 200 participants!

General Session Participants

We had Heinz Block speak about the new Equifactor® Equipment Troubleshooting Technique that was being introduced at the Summit.

And an Olympic three-time gold medalist, Josh Davis, talk about achieving success and inspiring your kids.

Each year the Summit gets better and better.

13th SUMMIT – 2008 – LAS VEGAS

2008 marked the 20th Anniversary of System Improvements. And the 2008 Summit was bigger and better than ever before!

Elvis stopped by our reception to sing us a few tunes.

We had great Keynote Speakers, including one of the operators on duty at Three Mile Island during the accident and a pilot from the Gulf War who had been wrongly prosecuted for a human error.

14th SUMMIT – 2009 – NASHVILLE

Yes, the Great Recession struck. But we still had over 200 people attend the Summit Nashville Summit. Despite tropical storms, the Great Recession, and COVID, we have NEVER canceled a Global TapRooT® Summit. Our loyal clients know the Summit’s value and strive to attend no matter the weather or economic conditions.

The Keynote Speakers included Mile Kelly, Mark Paradies, and E.D. Hill.

E.D. Hill – Keynote Speaker

As usual, we had a great reception with a Disco theme. We even got Ken Reed to dance! (That will never happen again.)

15th SUMMIT – 2010 – SAN ANTONIO

Jeff Skiles - Miracle on the Hudson

The Keynote Speakers at the 2010 Summit included the co-pilot of the “Miracle on the Hudson” flight – Jeff Skiles. As usual at the Summit, there was great best practice sharing, networking, and benchmarking for all…

   Networking at Summit

The reception was a Halloween costume party …

  Summit Halloween Party

16th SUMMIT – 2012 – LAS VEGAS


Back to Las Vegas! This was the first Summit with over 300 participants. We had Ken Mattingly, an Apollo Astronaut, as our closing Keynote Speaker and a great reception at Margaritaville!


Another great Summit in Gatlinburg, TN. Bill Rancic, the first winner of the TV show, The Apprentice, shared insights on the competition and motivated us all to give our best effort to make improvements happen.

18th SUMMIT – 2014 – AUSTIN

This was our first Summit at the Horseshoe Bay Resort. Above is a picture from the “Name Game.” Meeting people is how we start every Summit. Below is a picture of people absorbed in one of the Best Practice Track Sessions.

19th SUMMIT- 2015 – LAS VEGAS

Another great Summit in Vegas! Captain Richard Phillips was our closing speaker. No wonder they made a movie out of his heroic experience!

And below is Linda Unger giving out Success Story awards…

20th SUMMIT – 2016 – SAN ANTONIO

Great Keynote Speakers, including Mike Durrant (Blackhawk Down), made the 2016 TapRooT® Summit in San Antonio another success.

21st SUMMIT – 2018 – KNOXVILLE

2018 was the first time we held the Summit in our hometown – Knoxville. People loved it! Downtown has lots of activities and dining within walking distance of the Knoxville Convention Center (where we are holding the 2021 Global TapRooT® Summit).

Inky Johnson

Once again, we had great speakers, including Inky Johnson, Carl Dixon, and an interview with a survivor of the Deepwater Horizon accident, Mike Williams.

Here are some highlights in a video…

And here are some comments about the 2018 Summit and the pre-Summit Courses from participants.

22nd SUMMIT – 2019 – HOUSTON

2019 was the first Summit held in Houston and it was great! We had Astronaut, Jim Wetherbee, speak about high-reliability lessons learned from space.

At the reception (western theme), we got Mark, Michelle, and Ken to back up Carl Dixon signing the Eagles tune, Take It Easy.


Another great Summit described in the brochure below…

Global TapRooT® Summit Brochure

The pre-Summit Courses are one of the features that make the Summit so valuable. These are held on Monday and Tuesday. The Summit starts on Wednesday and runs through Friday.

Alex teaching the Stopping Human Error Course

Alex teaching the Stopping Human Error Course at the 2020 Summit

This was the second Summit that participants completed an Implementation Roadmap to plan their improvements.

This Summit ended at the start of the COVID pandemic. We were lucky to complete the Summit just before the restrictions started. Nobody caught the dreaded virus – perhaps because we used up gallons of hand sanitizer. We gave out individual containers to each attendee. (They were the last supply in Knoxville and almost as valuable as toilet paper!)

Recognize Anyone?

Did you recognize anyone in the pictures or videos above?  By now you are starting to feel the comradery that everyone feels at the TapRooT® Summit. It’s like attending a family reunion.

24th SUMMIT – 2021 – KNOXVILLE, TN

The 2021 Global TapRooT® Summit is the first HYBRID Summit. What does that mean? It will be held BOTH VIRTUALLY and in-person.

Shannon Miller

Shannon Miller – Holder of 7 Olympic Medals

Once again, we have some great Keynote Speakers including Shannon Miller (above) and Inky Johnson (below).

Inky Johnson

Inky Johnson – UT Football Hero

Want to find out more? Visit the Summit website.

Then see the complete schedule of Best Practice Track Sessions.

I know the Summit will help you:

  • Solve some of the toughest problems your company faces
  • Meet new, valuable contacts
  • Benchmark your improvement programs against the industry’s best
  • Go back to work motivated to make improvements happen!

Get the 2021 Global TapRooT® Summit Brochure HERE.

Don’t wait! REGISTER today.

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