Category: Investigations

My 20+ Year Relationship with 5-Why’s

December 11th, 2017 by

I first heard of 5-Why’s over 20 years ago when I got my first job in Quality. I had no experience of any kind, I got the job because I worked with the Quality Manager’s wife in another department and she told him I was a good guy. True story…but that’s how things worked back then!

When I was first exposed to the 5-Why concept, it did not really make any sense to me; I could not understand how it actually could work, as it seemed like the only thing it revealed was the obvious. So, if it is obvious, why do I need it? That is a pretty good question from someone who did not know much at the time.

I dived into Quality and got all the certifications, went to all the classes and conferences, and helped my company build an industry leading program from the ground up. A recurring concept in the study and materials I was exposed to was 5-Why. I learned the “correct” way to do it. Now I understood it, but I still never thought it was a good way to find root causes.

I transferred to another division of the company to run their safety program. I did not know how to run a safety program – I did know all the rules, as I had been auditing them for years, but I really did not know how to run the program. But I did know quality, and those concepts helped me instill an improvement mindset in the leaders which we successfully applied to safety.

The first thing I did when I took the job was to look at the safety policies and procedures, and there it was; when you have an incident, “ask Why 5 times” to get your root cause! That was the extent of the guidance. So whatever random thought was your fifth Why would be the root cause on the report! The people using it had absolutely no idea how the concept worked or how to do it. And my review of old reports validated this. Since then I have realized this is a common theme with 5-Why’s; there is a very wide variation in the way it is used. I don’t believe it works particularly well even when used correctly, but it usually isn’t in my experience.

Since retiring from my career and coming to work with TapRooT®, I’ve had literally hundreds of conversations with colleagues, clients, and potential clients about 5-Why’s. I used to be somewhat soft when criticizing 5-Why’s and just try to help people understand why TapRooT® gets better results. Recently, I’ve started to take a more militant approach. Why? Because most of the people I talk to already know that 5-Why’s does not work well, but they still use it anyway (easier/cheaper/quicker)!

So it is time to take the gloves off; let’s not dance around this any longer. To quote Mark Paradies:
“5-Why’s is Root Cause Malpractice!”

To those that are still dug in and take offense, I do apologize! I can only share my experience.

For more information, here are some previous blog articles:

What’s Wrong With Cause-and-Effect, 5-Why’s, & Fault Trees

Comparing TapRooT® to Other Root Cause Tools

What’s Fundamentally Wrong with 5-Whys?

Fake News or Real?

December 6th, 2017 by

FakeNews

That’s the headline. Here is the link:

http://www.abcnews-us.com/2017/12/05/morgue-employee-cremated-by-mistake-while-taking-a-nap/

Could it really be true? I guess the funeral home industry needs TapRooT®!

(Editor’s update: After this post was published, Snopes reported this as fake news and the news story was removed. Thank goodness!)

Not Near-Misses … They Are Precursors

December 5th, 2017 by

I had an epiphany today.

Have you ever noticed how management doesn’t take near-miss incidents seriously? They don’t see them as just one step away from a fatality?

I think part of the problem may be the terminology.

Near-miss just doesn’t sound very serious. After all … it was a miss.

But what if we called these incidents PRECURSORS.

A precursor tells you that something IS going to happen unless you change.

If management saw these incidents as an indicator that something was GOING TO HAPPEN, then, maybe, they would take action.

You may have already thought of this and changed the language that you use around incidents … but I haven’t seen the words PRECURSOR INCIDENTS used very often. Now may be the time to start.

One more thing … Precursor Incidents mean that incidents that could not cause an accident ARE NOT precursors. Thus, paper cuts are not precursors of amputations.

Therefore, we can stop wasting our time investigating incidents that will never cause a serious injury.

Just a thought…

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December 2nd, 2017 by

 

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Put your root cause analysis data to use

November 20th, 2017 by

 

“Just as the introduction of electricity shifted the world’s industrialized economies into higher gear a century ago, digital technologies are fueling economic activity today. This time, however, the transformation is unfolding exponentially faster.” from Digital America: A Tale of the Haves and Have Mores, McKinsey & Company

We live in an age of information, data is collected in evermore places and shared between people and machines in the IoT. Data collection and analysis is becoming easier and easier, with apps, new devices and software.

Still, in the construction industry 30% to 60% of contractors surveyed in the recent Construction Technology Report use manual processes or spreadsheets to manage takeoff, estimating, subcontractor prequalification, bids and data collection. Fewer than half of contractors responding to the survey use mobile apps for daily reporting, worker time entry, managing safety, or tracking job performance.

When it comes to investigating issues and doing root cause analysis, the TapRooT® approach yields effective and consistent results across different industries. For several years software has been available to support teams with their investigations. Now in it’s 6th version, the TapRooT® software offers the highest productivity. Charting incidents is easy, powerful tools assist with identifying Causal Factors and Root Causes, as well as with writing Corrective Actions.

New and improved graphing tools makes it easy to plot data, and trends can be better captured, over time. Watch this short video, or read more here. Stay tuned for updates about a future smart phone App.

#taproot_RCA

Monday Accident & Lessons Learned: NTSB Reports that “Ignored Safety Procedures, Fractured Safety Program Led to Fatal Amtrak Derailment”

November 20th, 2017 by

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This accident may seem like a simple case of a supervisor failing to make a call. However, the NTSB investigation shows there were many more issues that caused the fatalities.

Here is the press release from the NTSB:

Ignored Safety Procedures, Fractured Safety Program Led to Fatal Amtrak Derailment

11/14/2017

WASHINGTON (Nov. 14, 2017) — The National Transportation Safety Board determined Tuesday the April 3, 2016, derailment of Amtrak train 89 near Chester, Pennsylvania was caused by deficient safety management across many levels of Amtrak and the resultant  lack of a clear, consistent and accepted vision for safety.

A backhoe operator and a track supervisor were killed, and 39 people were injured when Amtrak train 89, traveling on the Northeast Corridor from Philadelphia to Washington on track 3, struck a backhoe at about 7:50 a.m. The train engineer saw equipment and people working on and near track 3 and initiated emergency braking that slowed the train from 106 mph to approximately 99 mph at the time of impact.

The NTSB also determined allowing a passenger train to travel at maximum authorized speed on unprotected track where workers were present, the absence of shunting devices, the foreman’s failure to conduct a job briefing at the start of the shift, all coupled with the numerous inconsistent views of safety and safety management throughout Amtrak, led to the accident.

“Amtrak’s safety culture is failing, and is primed to fail again, until and unless Amtrak changes the way it practices safety management,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt. “Investigators found a labor-management relationship so adversarial that safety programs became contentious at the bargaining table, with the unions ultimately refusing to participate.”

The NTSB also noted the Federal Railroad Administration’s failure to require redundant signal protection, such as shunting, for maintenance-of-way work crews contributed to this accident.

Post-accident toxicology determined that the backhoe operator tested positive for cocaine, and the track supervisor and tested positive for codeine and morphine.   The locomotive engineer tested positive for marijuana. The NTSB determined that while drug use was not a factor in this accident, it was symptomatic of a weak safety culture at Amtrak.

As a result of this investigation, the NTSB issued 14 safety recommendations including nine to Amtrak.
The NTSB also made two safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration, and three safety recommendations were issued to the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division, American Railway and Airway Supervisors Association, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen.

The abstract of the NTSB’s final report, that includes the findings, probable cause and safety recommendations is available online at https://go.usa.gov/xnWpg.  The final report will be publicly released in the next several days.

The webcast of the board meeting for this investigation is available for 90 days at http://ntsb.capitolconnection.org/.

Contact: NTSB Media Relations
490 L’Enfant Plaza, SW 
Washington, DC 20594 
Terry Williams 
(202) 314-6100 
Terry.williams@ntsb.gov

 

Monday Accidents & Lessons Learned: Review of a Comprehensive Review

November 6th, 2017 by

ComprehensiveReview_Final.pdfReportScreenShot

What will it take for the US Navy surface fleet (or at least the 7th Fleet) to stop crashing ships and killing sailors? That is the question that was suppose to be answered in the Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Force Incidents. (See the reference here: Comprehensive+Review_Final.pdf). This article critiques the report that senior Navy officials produced that recommended changes to improve performance.

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If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging!!
Will Rogers

The report starts with two and a half pages of how wonderful the US Navy is. The report then blames the crews for the accidents. The report stated:

In each incident, there were fundamental failures to responsibly plan, prepare and execute ship activities to avoid undue operational risk. These ships failed as a team to use available information to build and sustain situational awareness on the Bridge and prevent hazardous conditions from developing. Moreover, leaders and teams failed as maritime professionals by not adhering to safe navigational practices.

It also blamed the local command (the 7th Fleet) by saying:

Further, the recent series of mishaps revealed weaknesses in the command structures in-place to oversee readiness and manage operational risk for forces forward deployed in Japan. In each of the four mishaps there were decisions at headquarters that stemmed from a culturally engrained “can do” attitude, and an unrecognized accumulation of risk that resulted in ships not ready to safely operate at sea.

Now that we know that more senior brass, the CNO, the Secretary of the Navy, the Secretary of Defense, the Congress, or the President (current or past) have nothing to do with the condition of the Navy, we can go on to read about their analysis and fixes.

The report states that individual root cause analysis of US Navy crashes were meant to examine individual unit performance and did NOT consider:

  • Management Systems (Doctrine, Organization, Leadership, Personnel)
  • Facilities and Material
  • Training and Education

The “Comprehensive Report” was designed to do a more in-depth analysis that considers the factors listed above. The report found weaknesses in all of the above areas and recommended improvements in:

  • Fundamentals
  • Teamwork
  • Operational Safety
  • Assessment
  • Culture

The report states:

The recommendations described in this report address the skills, knowledge, capabilities, and processes needed to correct the abnormal conditions found in these five areas, which led to an accumulation of risk in the Western Pacific. The pressure to meet rising operational demand over time caused Commanders, staff and crew to rationalize shortcuts under pressure. The mishap reports support the assertion that there was insufficient rigor in seeking and solving problems at three critical stages: during planning in anticipation of increased tasking, during practice/rehearsal for abnormal or emergency situations in the mishap ships, and in execution of the actual events. This is important, because it is at these stages where knowledge and skills are built and tested. Evidence of skill proficiency (on ships) and readiness problems (at headquarters) were missed, and over time, even normalized to the point that more time could be spent on operational missions. Headquarters were trying to manage the imbalance, and up to the point of the mishaps, the ships had been performing operationally with good outcomes, which ultimately reinforced the rightness of trusting past decisions. This rationalized the continued deviation from the sound training and maintenance practices that set the conditions for safe operations.

The report mentions, but does not emphasize, what I believe to be the main problem:

The findings in chapters four through eight and appendix 9.10 underscore the imbalance between the number of ships in the Navy today and the increasing number of operational missions assigned to them. The Navy can supply a finite amount of forces for operations from the combined force of ships operating from CONUS and based abroad; this finite supply is based both on the size of the force as well as the readiness funding available to man, train, equip and sustain that force. Headquarters are working to manage the imbalance. U.S. Navy ships homeported in the continental United States (CONUS) balance maintenance, training and availability for operations (deployments and/or surge); the Pacific Fleet is re-examining its ability to maintain this balance for ships based in Japan as well. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011 and extended Continuing Resolutions, the ability to supply forces to the full demand is – and will remain – limited.

The report does not say how many more ships the 7th Fleet or the US Navy needs.

The report also stated:

The risks that were taken in the Western Pacific accumulated over time, and did so insidiously. The dynamic environment normalized to the point where individuals and groups of individuals could no longer recognize that the processes in place to identify, communicate and assess readiness were no longer working at the ship and headquarters level.

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This could be used as a definition of normalization of deviation. To read more about this, see the article about Admiral Rickover’s philosophy of operational excellence and normalization of deviation by CLICKING HERE.

Normalization of deviation has been common in the US Navy, especially the surface fleet, with their “Git er Dun” attitude. But I’m now worried that the CNO (Chief of Naval Operation), who was trained as a Navy Nuke, might not remember Admiral Rickover’s lessons. I also worry that the submarine force, which has had its own series of accidents over the past decade, may take shortcuts with nuclear safety if the emphasis on mission accomplishment becomes preeminent and resources are squeezed by Washington bureaucrats.

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The military has been in a constant state of warfare for at least 15 years. One might say that since the peacekeeping missions of the Clinton administration, the military has been “ridden hard and put up wet” every year since that mission started. This abuse can’t continue without further detrimental effects to readiness and performance in the field.

The report summary ends with:

Going forward, the Navy must develop and formalize “firebreaks” into our force generation and employment systems to guard against a slide in standards. We must continue to build a culture – from the most junior Sailor to the most senior Commander – that values achieving and maintaining high operational and warfighting standards of performance. These standards must be manifest in our approach to the fundamentals, teamwork, operational safety, and assessment. These standards must be enforced in our equipment, our individuals, our unit teams, and our fleets. This Comprehensive Review aims to define the problems with specificity, and offers several general and specific recommendations to get started on making improvements to instilling those standards and strengthen that culture.

This is the culture for reactor operations in the Nuclear Navy. But changing a culture in the surface fleet will be difficult, especially when any future accidents are analyzed using the same poor root cause analysis that the Navy has been applying since the days of sail.

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After the summary, the report summarizes the blame oriented root cause analysis that I have previously reviewed HERE and HERE.

Another quote from the report that points out the flaws in US Navy root cause analysis is:

Leadership typically goes through several phases following a major mishap: ordering an operational pause or safety stand down; assembling a team to determine what happened and why; and developing a list of discrete actions for improvement. Causes are identified, meaningful actions taken, and there has been repeated near- term success in instilling improved performance. However, these improvements may only have marginal effect in the absence of programs and processes to ensure lessons are not forgotten. Still, all levels of command must evaluate the sufficiency of internal programs and processes to self-assess, trend problems, and develop and follow through on corrective actions in the wake of mishaps.”

Instead of thinking that the lessons from previous accidents have somehow been forgotten, a more reasonable conclusion is that the Navy really isn’t learning appropriate lessons and their root cause analysis and their corrective actions are ineffective. Of course, admitting this would mean that their current report is, also, probably misguided (since the same approach is used). Therefore they can’t admit one of their basic problems and this report’s corrective actions will also be short lived and probably fail.

The 33 people (a large board) performing the Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Force Incidents were distinguished insiders. All had either previous military/DoD/government affiliations or had done contracting or speaking work for the Navy. I didn’t recognize any of the members as a root cause analysis expert. I didn’t see this review board as one that would “rock the boat” or significantly challenge the status quo. This isn’t to say that they are unintelligent or are bad people. They are some of the best and brightest. But they are unlikely to be able to see the problems they are trying to diagnose because they created them or at least they have been surrounded by the system for so long that they find it difficult to challenge the system.

The findings and recommendations in the report are hard to evaluate. Without a thorough, detailed, accurate root cause analysis of the four incidents that the report was based upon (plus the significant amount of interviews that were conducted with no details provided), it is hard to tell if the finding are just opinions and if the recommendations are agenda items that people on the review board wanted to get implemented. I certainly can’t tell if the recommended fixes will actually cause a culture change when that culture change may not be supported by senior leadership and congressional funding.

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One more point that I noticed is that certain “hot button” morale issues were not mentioned. This could mean that certain factors effecting manning, training time wasted, and disciplinary issues aren’t being addressed. Even mentioning an example in this critique of the report seems risky in our very sensitive politically correct culture. Those aboard ships know examples of the type of issues I’m referring to, therefore, I won’t go into more detail. If, however, certain issues won’t be discussed and directly addressed, the problems being created won’t be solved.

Finally, it was good to see references to human factors and fatigue in the report. Unfortunately, I don’t know if the board members actually understand the fundamentals of human performance.

For example, it seems that senior military leadership expects the Commanding Officer, the Officer of the Deck, or even the Junior Officer of the Deck to take bold, decisive action when faced with a crisis they have never experienced before and that they have never had training and practice in handling. Therefore, here is a simple piece of basic human factors theory:

If you expect people to take bold, decisive action when faced with a crisis,
you will frequently be disappointed. If you expect that sailors and officers
will have to act in a crisis situations, they better be highly practiced
in what they need to do. In most cases, you would be much better off to
spend time and energy avoiding putting people in a crisis situation.

My father was a fighter ace in World War II. One of the things he learned as he watched a majority of the young fighter pilots die in their first month or even first week of combat was that there was no substitute for experience in arial combat. Certainly early combat experience led to the death of some poor pilots or those who just couldn’t get the feel of leading an aircraft with their shots. But he also observed that inexperienced good pilots also fell victim to the more experienced Luftwaffe pilots. If a pilot could gain experience (proficiency), then their chances of surviving the next mission increased dramatically.

An undertrained, undermanned, fatigue crew is a recipe for disaster. Your best sailors will decide to leave the Navy rather than facing long hours with little thanks. Changing a couple of decades of neglect of our Navy will take more than the list of recommendations I read in the Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Force Incidents. Until more ships and more sailors are supplied, the understaffed, undertrained, under appreciated,  under supported, limited surface force that we have today will be asked to do too much with too little.

That’s my critique of the Comprehensive Review. What lessons should we learn?

  • You need to have advanced root cause analysis to learn from your experience. (See About TapRooT® for more information.)
  • Blame is not the start of a performance improvement effort.
  • Sometimes senior leaders really do believe that they can apply the same old answers and expect a different result. Who said that was the definition of insanity?
  • If you can’t mention a problem, you can’t solve it.
  • People in high stress situations will often make mistakes, especially if they are fatigued and haven’t been properly trained. (And you shouldn’t blame them if they do … You put them there!)
  • Just because you are in senior management, that doesn’t mean that you know how to find and fix the root causes of human performance problems. Few senior managers have had any formal training in doing this.

Once you have had a chance to review the report, leave your comments below.

Join us LIVE on Facebook, Wednesday, November 8 at Noon Eastern

November 6th, 2017 by

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Here is our upcoming November schedule (all live segments will be held on Wednesdays, 12 p.m. Eastern time):

November 8: We have exciting news to share about our Keynote Speakers! Join Mark Paradies & Benna Dortch.
November 15: Learn about our Safety Best Practice Track at the Global TapRooT® Summit with Dave Janney & Benna Dortch.
November 22: Bring all your questions about getting your TapRooT® Team trained! Ken Reed & Benna Dortch have answers!
November 29: Thinking about signing up for our Investigator Best Practices Track? Per Ohstrom & Benna Dortch will share the details!

See you soon!

Human Factors Issue in USS John S McCain Crash Not Specifically Identified in Navy Report

November 3rd, 2017 by

The report issues by the US Navy had enough details to identify a human factors issue in the steering system of the USS John S McCain. However, the report identified the main issue as a training problem. I think they missed a significant human factors issue in this investigation. The following details explain what I mean.

Here is a quote from the report:

“At 0519, the Commanding Officer noticed the Helmsman (the watchstander steering the ship) having difficulty maintaining course while also adjusting the throttles for speed control. In response, he ordered the watch team to divide the duties of steering and throttles, maintaining course control with the Helmsman while shifting speed control to another watchstander known as the Lee Helm station, who sat directly next to the Helmsman at the panel to control these two functions, known as the Ship’s Control Console. See Figures 3 and 4. This unplanned shift caused confusion in the watch team, and inadvertently led to steering control transferring to the Lee Helm Station without the knowledge of the watch team. The CO had only ordered speed control shifted. Because he did not know that steering had been transferred to the Lee Helm, the Helmsman perceived a loss of steering.”

McCainHelm

“Steering was never physically lost. Rather, it had been shifted to a different control station and watchstanders failed to recognize this configuration. Complicating this, the steering control transfer to the Lee Helm caused the rudder to go amidships (centerline). Since the Helmsman had been steering 1-4 degrees of right rudder to maintain course before the transfer, the amidships rudder deviated the ship’s course to the left.Additionally, when the Helmsman reported loss of steering, the Commanding Officer slowed the ship to 10 knots and eventually to 5 knots, but the Lee Helmsman reduced only the speed of the port shaft as the throttles were not coupled together (ganged). The starboard shaft continued at 20 knots for another 68 seconds before the Lee Helmsman reduced its speed. The combination of the wrong rudder direction, and the two shafts working opposite to one another in this fashion caused an un-commanded turn to the left (port) into the heavily congested traffic area in close proximity to three ships, including the ALNIC. See Figure 5.”

McCainCollision

“Although JOHN S MCCAIN was now on a course to collide with ALNIC, the Commanding Officer and others on the ship’s bridge lost situational awareness. No one on the bridge clearly understood the forces acting on the ship, nor did they understand the ALNIC’s course and speed relative to JOHN S MCCAIN during the confusion.Approximately three minutes after the reported loss of steering, JOHN S MCCAIN regained positive steering control at another control station, known as Aft Steering, and the Lee Helm gained control of both throttles for speed and corrected the mismatch between the port and starboard shafts. These actions were too late, and at approximately 0524 JOHN S MCCAIN crossed in front of ALNIC’s bow and collided. See Figure 6.”

McCainCollision2

Also, from the report:

“Because steering control was in backup manual at the helm station, the offer of control existed at all the other control stations (Lee Helm, Helm forward station, Bridge Command and Control station and Aft Steering Unit). System design is such that any of these stations could have taken control of steering via drop down menu selection and the Lee Helm’s acceptance of the request. If this had occurred, steering control would have been transferred.”

“When taking control of steering, the Aft Steering Helmsman failed to first verify the rudder position on the After Steering Control Console prior to taking control. This error led to an exacerbated turn to port just prior to the collision, as the indicated rudder position was 33 degrees left, vice amidships. As a result, the rudder had a left 33 degrees order at the console at this time, exacerbating the turn to port.”

“Several Sailors on watch during the collision with control over steering were temporarily assigned from USS ANTIETAM (CG 54) with significant differences between the steering control systems of both ships and inadequate training to compensate for these differences.”

“Multiple bridge watchstanders lacked a basic level of knowledge on the steering control system, in particular the transfer of steering and thrust control between stations. Contributing, personnel assigned to ensure these watchstanders were trained had an insufficient level of knowledge to effectively maintain appropriate rigor in the qualification program. The senior most officer responsible for these training standards lacked a general understanding of the procedure for transferring steering control between consoles.”

The Navy report concludes that this problem was related to training. Although training may have been an issue, training was made much more difficult (complex) by a poorly human factored design. The design didn’t consider the user.

In my experience (I was a 1st Lieutenant on a cruiser – the USS Arkansas, CGN-41), Seaman who are Boatswains Mates are the least technically inclined sailors on the ship. These are the people who stand this type of watch. The job of guiding a long heavy ship, turning it, and keeping it on course using a rudder mounted on the stern can be a thing of beauty when an experienced helmsman knows what they are doing. But not everyone standing the watch is that good. Obviously this sailor was having trouble compensating for current (obvious when you see how far he was steering off the ordered track in Figure 6 above).

On the ships that I served aboard (30 years ago), the steering and helm systems appeared quite simple. There was only one console on the bridge to steer from and only one place on the bridge to indicate the ships speed input that was communicated to the throttleman in the engine room. You could shift steering to aft steering, but this was mainly a process of them manually taking over from the bridge. You would then communicate helm orders via sound powered phones.

Also, speed orders could be manually communicated from the lee helm to the throttleman in engineering via sound powered phones.

In the old days, the lee helm was always manned and there would be no “shifting of controls” as occurred in this collision. Instead, if the helmsman was having problems, the Boatswain Mate of the Watch (the supervisor of these watch stations) could step in to provide advice, or, if needed, take over for the less experienced helmsman. In theory, the Boatswain Mate of the Watch was a more experienced helmsman and could be counted on to correct any problem the helmsman had experienced.

However, on these modern cruisers there is an addition order of difficulty. They have made the Navy ships much more like commercial ships that can be steered from various locations. Also, the two jobs of helmsman and lee helmsman can be performed by a single individual. In theory, this can reduce the number of watch standers and perhaps make the steering of the ship easier.

I think the reality is quite different. The computerized controls have reduced the control that a helmsman has and added complexity that can lead to errors. I would like to do a complete human factors review of the system, but I would bet that the steering modes, locations of control, and the controls used to change control locations are not obvious and, thus, contributed to this accident. That is a human factors problem … NOT a training problem.

This is just one specific example of the lack of thorough root cause analysis that I saw in the US Navy report on the collision (that I wrote about yesterday). It shows the need for better US Navy root cause analysis to fix the real system problems.

If you would like to learn a system that includes an expert system to help investigators identify human factors issues, attend one of our 5-Day TapRooT® Advanced Root Cause Analysis Training Courses. See our upcoming public course dates and locations by CLICKING HERE.

Navy Releases Reports on Recent Collisions and Provides Inadequate Information and Corrective Actions

November 2nd, 2017 by

Punish

At the end of the cold war, politicians talked of a “peace dividend.” We could cut back our military funding and staffing.

Similar action was taken by the USSR Government for the Soviet fleet. I watched the Soviet Fleet deteriorate. Ships weren’t maintained. Training was curtailed. What was the second best navy in the world deteriorated. I thought it was good news.

What I didn’t know was that our fleet was deteriorating too.

Fast forward to the most recent pair of collisions involving ships in the 7th Fleet (The USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S McCain). If you read the official report (see the link below) you will see that the Navy Brass blames the collisions on bad people. It’s the ship’s CO’s and sailors that are to blame.

Screen Shot 2017 11 01 at 4 40 39 PMUSNAVYCOLLISIONS.pdf

The blame for the ship’s leadership and crews includes (list shortened and paraphrased from the report above by me):

USS Fizgerald

  • The Officer of the Deck (OOD) and bridge team didn’t follow the Rules of the Road (laws for operating ships at sea).
  • The ship was going too fast.
  • The ship didn’t avoid the collision.
  • Radars weren’t used appropriately.
  • The lookout (singular) and the bridge team was only watching the port side and didn’t see the contacts on the starboard side.
  • The Navigation Department personnel didn’t consider the traffic separation lanes when laying out the proposed track for navigating the ship (and this should have been well known since this ship was leaving their home port).
  • The navigation team did not use the Automated Identification System that provides real time updates on commercial shipping positions.
  • The Bridge team and the Combat Information Center team did not communicate effectively.
  • The OOD did not call the CO when required.
  • Members of the Bridge team did not forcefully notify and correct others (including their seniors) when mistakes were suspected or noted.
  • Radar systems were not operating to full capability and this had become accepted.
  • A previous near-collision had not be adequately investigated and root causes identified by the ship’s crew and leadership.
  • The command leadership did not realize how bad the ship’s performance was.
  • The command leadership allowed a schedule of events which led to fatigue for the crew.
  • The command leadership didn’t assess the risk of fatigue and take mitigating actions.

NewImageFired (reassigned) CO of USS Fitzgerald

USS John S McCain

  • Then training of the helm and lee helm operators was substandard in at least part because some sailors were assigned temporarily too the ship and didn’t have adequate training on the differences in the ships rudder control systems.
  • The aft steering helmsman failed to verify the position of the rudder position on his console and made a bad situation worse.
  • Senior personnel and bridge watch standers on the USS John S McCain seemed to have inadequate knowledge of the steering control system.
  • The ship’s watch standers were not the most qualified team and Sea Detail should have been set sooner by the Commanding Officer.
  • The OOD and Conning Officer had not attended the navigation brief held the previous day that covered the risk of the evolution.
  • Five short blasts were not sounded when a collision was immanent giving the other ship a chance to avoid the collision.
  • The CO ordered an unplanned shift of the propulsion control from one station to another without clear notification of the bridge watch team. This order occurred in a shipping channel with heavy traffic.
  • Senior officers and bridge watch standers did not question the report of loss of steering by the Helmsman or pursue the issue to resolution.

NewImageCO & XO of USS John S McCain that were fired (reassigned).

That’s a significant blame list. Can you spot what is missing?

First, the factors that are listed aren’t root causes or even near-root causes. Rather they are Causal Factors and maybe a few causal categories.

Second, the report doesn’t provide enough information to judge if the list is a complete list of the Causal Factors.

Third, with no real root cause analysis, analysis of Generic Causes is impossible. Perhaps that’s why the is no senior leadership (i.e., the Brass – Admirals) responsibility for the lack of training, lack of readiness, poor material condition, poor root cause analysis, and poor crew coordination. For an idea about Generic Cause Analysis of these collisions and potential corrective actions, see: http://www.taproot.com/archives/59924.

Here is a short recreation of the USS Fitzgerald collision to refresh you memory…

The US Navy did not release the actual accident investigation report (the Command and the Admiralty investigations) because the Chief of Naval Operations, “… determined to retain the legal privilege that exists with the command Admiralty investigations in order to protect the legal interests of the United States of America and the families of those Sailors who perished.” I believe the release of the actual investigation reports has more to do with protecting Navy Admirals and an inadequate training and manning of US Navy ships than protecting the US Government legally.

It seems to me that the US Navy has sunk (no pun intended) to the same low standards that the Soviet Navy let their fleet deteriorate to after the cold war ended. Bad material condition, low readiness, and, perhaps, poor morale. And the US Navy seems to have the same “transparency” that the USSR had during the communist hay day.

But I was even more shocked when I found that these problems (Training, manning, material condition, …) had been noted in a report to senior US Navy leadership back in 2010. That’s right, military commanders had known of these problems across the fleet for seven years and DID NOT take actions to correct them. Instead, they blame the Commanding Officers and ship’s crews for problems that were caused by Navy and political policy. Here is a link to that report:

https://www.scribd.com/document/43245136/Balisle-Report-on-FRP-of-Surface-Force-Readiness

Why didn’t senior leadership fix the problems noted in the report? One can only guess that it didn’t fit their plans for reduced manning, reduced maintenance, and more automated systems. These programs went forward despite evidence of decreased readiness by ships in the fleet. A decreased state of readiness that led two ships to fatal collisions. This cutting of costs was a direct response to budget cuts imposed by politicians. Thus “supporting our troops” is too expensive.

It seems from the reports that the Navy would rather punish Commanding Officers and the ship’s crews rather than fix the fleet’s problems. No accountability is shared by the senior naval leadership that has gone along with budget cuts without a decrease in the operating tempo and commitments.

NewImageChief of Naval Operations who says these types of accidents should “never happen again.”

More blame is NOT what is needed. What is needed is advanced root cause analysis that leads to effective corrective actions. The report released by the Navy (at the start of this article) doesn’t have either effective root cause analysis or effective corrective actions. I fear the unreleased reports are no better.

What can we do? Demand better from our representatives. Our sailors (and other branches as well) deserve the budget and manning needed to accomplish their mission. We can’t change the past but we need to go forward with effective root cause analysis and corrective actions to fix the problems that have caused the decline in mission capabilities.

Interviewing & Evidence Collection Tip: Are you Ready for the Unexpected?

November 2nd, 2017 by

 

No one wants an accident to happen but it’s important to be ready. Here are four things to get into place so you will be:

1. Formal investigation policy. Do you have a policy that sets out the reporting process, goals of investigation and the systematic process an investigator will use to complete the investigation? Has it been updated within the past year?

2. Emergency response. Is your response plan written down? Do you have trained responders who can administer care and who will mitigate additional damages after an accident? Has the list of first responders been evaluated within the past year (people come and go and new people may need to be trained).

3. Accident investigation training. Do all employees know how to report accidents and near-misses? Are all of your investigators trained in the systematic process of investigation set out in your investigation policy?

4. Accident investigation kit. Do you have tools and equipment that aids your investigators gathered together in a grab-and-go kit? This varies from facility to facility, industry to industry. It may be as simple as forms (such as a form to record initial observations of the witnesses) and a disposable camera.

Join me and Reb Brickey on February 26 and 27, 2018 in Knoxville, Tennessee for our TapRooT® Evidence Collection and Interviewing Techniques to Sharpen Investigation Skills to learn more about this topic.

KISS and Root Cause Analysis

November 1st, 2017 by

I’ve heard many “experts” claim that you need to apply the KISS principle when it comes to root cause analysis. You may hear this too and I want you to understand where these experts lead many people astray.

First, what is KISS? Keep It Simple Stupid! The acronym implies that simple solutions are better solutions. And when simple solution work (are effective) KISS is a dream come true. But remember Einstein’s quote:

Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.

So let’s start with some of the reasons that these experts say you need to use simple techniques and debunk or demystify each one. Here’s a list of common expert advice.

  1. It’s a waste of time to use full root cause analysis on every problem.
  2. People can’t understand complex root cause analysis techniques.
  3. Learning simple techniques will get people to start thinking deeper about problems.
  4. Simple is just about as good as those fancy techniques.
  5. Managers don’t have time to do fancy root cause analysis and they already know what is wrong.
  6. You can apply those complicated techniques to just the most serious accidents.
  7. The data from the simple investigations will help you identify the more complex issues you need to solve.

I see these arguments all the time. They make me want to scream! Let me debunk each one and then you too can dismiss these “experts” the next time they try one or more of these arguments on your management team.

1. It’s a waste of time to use full root cause analysis on every problem.

I actually sort of agree with this statement. What I don’t agree with is the answer they arrive at. Their answer is that you should apply some “simple” root cause analysis technique (let’s just say 5-Whys as an example) to “solve” these problems that don’t deserve a well thought out answer.

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First, what do I have against their ideas of simple root cause analysis? If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know what I’m going the explain, so just skip ahead. For those who don’t know what’s wrong with most “simple” root cause analysis techniques, I would suggest start reading from the top of the links below until you are convinced that most expert advice about “simple” root cause analysis is root cause analysis malpractice. If you haven’t been convinced by the end of the links … perhaps you are one of the experts I’m talking about. Here’s the list of links:

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

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

What’s Wrong with 5-Whys??? – Complete Article 

What’s Fundamentally Wrong with 5-Whys?

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

I believe that one of the biggest root cause analysis problems that companies face is that they are performing “root cause analysis” on problems that don’t need to be analyzed.  YES – I said it. Not every problem deserves a root cause analysis.

What problems don’t need to be analyzed? Problems that aren’t going to teach you anything significant. I call these “paper cut problems.” You don’t need to investigate paper cuts.

But some people would say that you do need to investigate every loss time injury and medical treatment case. Maybe … maybe not.

You do need to investigate an incident if it could have caused an outcome that you are trying to prevent and there are worthy lessons learned. Some medical treatment cases fall into this category. They got a cut finger but they could have lost their whole arm.

Two similar examples are provided in the book: Using the Essential TapRooT® Techniques to Investigate Low-to-Medium Risk Incidents. One is a sprained ankle and one is a sprained wrist. Both came from falling down. One was judged worthy of a full but simple root cause analysis using the essential features of the TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis System. One was judged not worthy of a full investigation after a simple SnapCharT® was developed. Interested in how this works? Read the book. It’s only 100 pages long and seeing how to judge if a root cause analysis is worthwhile is worth it. (And you will learn how to apply TapRooT® simply to low-to-medium risk incidents.)

Once you know how to do a real “simple” investigation with an effective technique, you won’t need to do bad root cause analysis with an ineffective technique.

2. People can’t understand complex root cause analysis techniques.

I don’t know every “complex” root cause analysis technique but I do know that this statement does NOT apply to TapRooT®. Why? Because we’ve tested it.

One “test” was at a refinery. The Operation Manager (a good guy) thought that TapRooT® was a good system but wasn’t sure that his operators would understand it. We decided to run a test. We decided to teach a basic class to all his union stewards. Then refinery management did a focus group with the shop stewards.

I was one of the instructors and from the course examples that they analyzed, I knew that they were really enjoying finding real root causes rather than placing blame.

They did the focus group (with us in another room). I could hear what was going on. The first question the facilitator asked was: “Did you understand the TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Technique?” One of the shop stewards said …

“If I can run a Cat Cracker I can certainly understand this! After all, it’s not rocket science!”

And that’s one of the great parts about TapRooT®. We’ve added expert systems for analysis of equipment and human performance problems, but we’ve kept the system understandable and made it easy to use. Making it seem like it isn’t rocket science (even though there is a whole bunch of science embedded in it) is the secret sauce of TapRooT®.

3. Learning simple techniques will get people to start thinking deeper about problems.

Learning to count is required before you learn calculus BUT counting over and over again does not teach you calculus.

If you don’t understand the causes of human performance problems, you won’t find the causes of the problems by asking why. And I don’t care how many times you ask why … it still won’t work.

For years we did a basic poll at the start of our 5-Day TapRooT® Advanced Root Cause Analysis Courses. We asked:

“How many of you have had any formal training in human factors or the causes of human error?”

Only about 2% of the attendees had ANY training on the causes of human error. But almost everybody that attended our training said that they had previously been assigned to find the causes of human errors. I wonder how well that went? (I can tell you from the student feedback, they said that they really DID NOT address the real root causes in their previous investigations.)

So, NO. Learning simple techniques DOES NOT get people to “think deeper” about problems.

4. Simple is just about as good as those fancy techniques.

NO WAY.

First, I’ve never seen a good example of 5-Whys. I’ve seen hundreds of bad examples that 5-Why experts thought were good examples. One “good example” that I remember was published in Quality Progress, the magazine from the American Society for Quality (ASQ). I couldn’t stand it. I had to write a reply. When I sent the letter to the editor, they asked me to write a whole article … so I did. To see the example and my article that was published in Quality Progress, see page 32 of the link below:

Under Scrutiny: A Critical Look at Root Cause Analysis.

Simple is not “almost as good” as real root cause analysis (TapRooT®). If you would like another example, see Chapter 3: Comparing the Results of a 5-Why Investigation to a Basic TapRooT® Investigation in the book, Using the Essential TapRooT® Techniques to Investigate Low-to-Medium Risk Incidents.

That’s it – Case Closed. Those “simple” techniques are NOT just about as good as TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis.

5. Managers don’t have time to do fancy root cause analysis and they already know what is wrong.

Once again, I’m reminding of a saying:

Why is there never enough time to do it right,
but there is always enough time to do it over? 

How many times have I seen managers misdiagnose problems because they didn’t find the root causes and then have bigger accidents because they didn’t fix the near-misses and small accidents?

The percentage of managers trained in the causes of human error is very similar to the statistics I previously provided (2%). This means that managers need an effective root cause analysis technique … just like investigators need an effective technique. That’s why the standard corrective actions they use don’t solve the problems and we have accidents that happen over and over again.

So if you don’t have time, don’t worry. You will make time to do it over and over again.

That reminds me of a quote from a plant manager I knew…

“If we investigated every incident, we’d do nothing but investigate incidents!”

6. You can apply those complicated techniques to just the most serious accidents.

I’ve seen companies saving their “best” root cause analysis for their big accidents. Here are the two problems I see with that.

FIRST, they have the big accidents BECAUSE they didn’t solve the precursor incidents. Why? because they didn’t do good root cause analysis on the precursor incidents. Thus, applying poor root cause analysis to the lessor incidents CAUSES the big accidents.

SECOND, their investigators don’t get practice using their “best” root cause analysis techniques because the “most serious” incidents are infrequent. Therefore, their investigators get rusty or they never really develop the skills they need by using the techniques on smaller incidents that could give them practice.

The key here is to learn to use TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis to investigate smaller problems. And that’s why we wrote a book about using TapRooT® for simple incidents: Using the Essential TapRooT® Techniques to Investigate Low-to-Medium Risk Incidents.

Don’t wait for big accidents to find and fix the causes of your biggest risks. Find and fix them when they give you warnings (the precursor incidents).

7. The data from the simple investigations will help you identify the more complex issues you need to solve.

Why do people think that analyzing lots of bad data will yield good results? I think it is the misconception about mathematics. A good formula doesn’t provide knowledge from bad data.

If you don’t really know how to analyze data, you should attend our pre-Summit course:

Advanced Trending Techniques

As W. Edwards Deming said:

“Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.”

And if you know much about Deming, you know that he was very interested in the accuracy of the data.

If you aren’t finding the real root causes, data about your BAD ANALYSIS only tells you what you were doing wrong. You now have data about what was NOT the causes of your problems. Go analyze that!

So data from BAD simple investigations DOES NOT help you solve your more complex issues. All it does is mislead your management.

THAT’S IT. All the bad advice debunked. Now, what do you need to do?

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1. Read the book:

TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Leadership Lessons

You will learn the theory behind performance improvement and you will be well on your way to understanding what management needs to do to really improve safety, quality, equipment reliability, and operational/financial performance.

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2. Read the book:

TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Implementation

You will know how to implement a real, effective root cause analysis system for low-to-medium risk incidents as well as major accidents.

3. If you haven’t done it already, attend one of our 5-Day TapRooT® Advanced Root Cause Analysis Courses. See the list of our upcoming public 5-Day TapRooT® Courses held around the world at this link:

http://www.taproot.com/store/5-Day-Courses/

And don’t take any more bad advice from experts who don’t know what they are talking about!

PS: If you have questions or want to discuss what you read in the books, contact me (Mark Paradies) at 865-539-2139 or by e-mail by clicking HERE.

Monday Accidents & Lessons Learned: Cardiac and Vascular Patient Pathways

October 30th, 2017 by

The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) was notified by an ambulance service of an incident that occurred in April 2017 relating to safety issues arising from the care of a patient with type A aortic dissection. The notification raised specific concerns relating to cardiac and vascular patient pathways and more generally the transfer of seriously ill patients between hospitals. Click here to read the Interim Bulletin.

How Far Away is Death?

October 26th, 2017 by

A worker fell four stories from a building under construction and lived to tell the tale. Click here to read the story on “The Queensland Times.”

Interviewing & Evidence Collection Tip: How to Handle an Inconsistent Statement

October 26th, 2017 by

 

 

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Not every inconsistent statement is meant to deceive.

 

A new investigator may believe that if an interviewee is telling the truth, he will be consistent in his recollection of an event every single time. However, not every inconsistent statement made by an interviewee is made to intentionally deceive.

In fact, most interviewees want to be helpful. Further, an inconsistent statement may be as accurate or even more accurate than consistent claims. That is, an account repeated three times with perfect consistency may be more of a red flag to dig deeper.

The two most important things to think about when evaluating inconsistencies are the passage of time between the incident and its recollection, and the significance of the event to the interviewee. Passage of time makes memory a bit foggy, and items stored in memory that become foggy the quickest are things that we don’t deem significant, like what we ate for lunch last Wednesday. That being said, we still have to be on the lookout for possible fallacies and know how to test them.

There are four ways to decrease the possibility of innocent inconsistent statements during the interviewing process.

  1. Encourage the interviewee to report events that come to mind that are not related or are trivial. In this way, you discourage an interviewee trying to please you by forcing the pieces to fit. They do not know about all the evidence that has been collected, and may believe that something is not related when it truly is.
  2. Tell the interviewee, explicitly, not to try to make-up anything he or she is unsure of simply to prove an answer. If they don’t know, simply request they say, “I don’t know.” This will help them relax.
  3. Do not give feedback after any statement like “good” or “right.” This will only encourage the interviewee to give more statements that you think are “good” or “right”– and may even influence them to believe that some things occurred that really didn’t.
  4. Ask the interviewee to tell the story of what happened from finish to start instead of start to finish. If the interviewee is intentionally trying to cover something up, he or she will have a hard time remembering the same order to the story he or she recited the first time because the interviewee will have a greater cognitive load to bear telling the story in reverse order.

We have plans to go over many more details on how to conduct a good interview at the 2018 Global TapRooT® Summit. Join us for TapRooT® Evidence Collection and Interviewing Techniques to Sharpen Investigation Skills February 26 and 27. Learn more.

TapRooT® Road Trip!

October 25th, 2017 by

Travel is one of the most rewarding things you can do in life but it gets expensive and hard to fit in the schedule sometimes. Why not take an opportunity to increase your skills and travel to a new destination? Just don’t hole up in your hotel room eating, working and watching TV after you get there. Get out and see a little of what our featured cities have to offer. Click the image below to learn about our upcoming host cities.

 

Click image to view featured courses.

 

Root Cause Tip Warning: Do not define the impact level of your incident too low or too high

October 19th, 2017 by

 

When defining the Incident during a TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis and its impact to the business (the scope of your investigation), I often hear this statement…

“If we focus on the delay of correcting the problem, then less importance will be placed on what caused the problem.”

Take the scenario of a fire pump failing to turn on during a fire response test. The team originally wanted to focus on the pump failure only. Not a bad idea however, the pump could not be repaired for 2 weeks because of a spare part shortage. I pushed the team to raise the scope and impact of the investigation to Automatic Fire Suppression System out of service for 14 days.

Now this elevation of the incident does not lessen the focus on the pump failure, it does the opposite. A system down for 2 weeks elevates the focus on the pump failure because of impact and also allows the team to analyze why we did not have access to spare pump in a timely manner.

A caution also must be mentioned in that elevating the impact of an incident too high can cause a regulating agency to get involved or/and additional resources to be spent when not required.

Which problem is worse? Elevating a problem too high or not high enough? Your thoughts?

Interviewing & Evidence Collection Tip: Get More Out of Interviews

October 5th, 2017 by

Where can you find a good portion of information to complete your SnapCharT®? Interviews! And how do we obtain interviews? People!

Why do we often forget that we are collecting information from human beings? Remember that an accident investigation may be a stressful event for everyone involved. There may be serious injuries and worries about the repercussions of participating in interviews or worries about whatever discipline the employer may impose in a blame culture.

Throughout the process, treat everyone with sensitivity:

  • Be ready for the interview.
  • Greet the interviewee by name, a firm handshake and a smile.
  • Break the ice by initiating a brief conversation not related to the incident. Put the interviewee at ease by listening to their contributions to the conversation without interruption.
  • Explain the interview process so they know what to expect.
  • Make it a practice to review the notes with the interviewee at the end of the interview. Let them know you will be doing that after explaining the process. They will feel more at ease if they have the opportunity to make any clarifications necessary.

Consideration for people’s fears goes a long way toward earning buy-in and confidence in the process.

What other things do you do to help an interviewee feel comfortable with the interview process? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

Radiation Release – Time for Root Cause Analysis

September 27th, 2017 by

A National Institute of Standards and Technology employee was exposed to radiation when a glass ampule broke.

Time for root cause analysis?

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sent a team to investigate.

See the article at THIS LINK.

Root Cause Audits Prevent Environmental Excursions

September 27th, 2017 by

All too often we hear stories about sewage spills and overflows, causing environmental damage and costing utilities and operators large fines. Sometimes the causes are catastrophic, like hurricanes. Unfortunately most of the time the reason is human performance and equipment malfunctions.

King County in Washington state recently had to pay a $361,000 fine for spilling 235 M gallons of sewage into the Puget sound. An investigation found the causes to be inadequate maintenance, reliability issues and lack of backup equipment. There was also a lack of employee training. Besides the fine, the county has to better monitor emergency bypasses, improve the reliability of equipment and upgrade alarm features in the plant control system.

A closer look reveals an inexpensive float switch was at the core of the issue. In the past this type of switch has repeatedly clogged, jammed and failed. To keep operations going, employees would bend the rod back in place instead of replacing it. All in all direct plant damage is $35M. This is the fourth environmental excursion since 2000, a cost which is not quantified, but large.

Another example is a recent 830,000 gallon sewage release into the Grand River in Ottawa County, Michigan, due to a power outage. Six months ago a broken 45 year old pipe caused a 2 M gallon spill at the same location. Replacement cost of the pipe is $5 M, funds are not available so the utility is patching and hoping for the best.

These are just two recent cases that would have benefited from doing a root cause audit. The methodology is similar to a root cause analysis, except of course it is done before any incident, and aims to find and fix the most impactful risks.

Steps in a root cause audit

Planning for and doing an audit typically follows the following pattern:

  1. Plan the audit, determine the process flow of problems that could turn into significant issues
  2. Perform the audit and record the findings
  3. Define the significant issues (similar to causal factors in a root cause analysis)
  4. Use the Root Cause Tree to analyze each significant issue
  5. Analyze any generic causes for each root cause
  6. Develop preventive fixes
  7. Get approvals, and implement the plan

When done, take a moment to recognize the people that helped, and do not forget to celebrate! To make things easier, it is worthwhile to learn from those that came before you!

We have long experience with investigations and corrective actions that work. A new book by Paradies, Unger & Janney “TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis for Audits and Proactive Performance Improvement” has practical check lists and advice on auditing and implementing corrective action. Read more and order your personal copy here: http://www.taproot.com/store/TapRooT-and-reg-for-Audits-Book-Set.html

Per Ohstrom is Vice President of Sales at System Improvements, Inc. #TapRooT_RCA

Generic Cause Analysis of the Navy’s Ship Collision/Grounding Problems

September 26th, 2017 by

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First, let me state that the reason I seem to be carried away by the failures of the Navy to implement good root cause analysis is that I spent seven years in the Navy and have compassion for the officers and sailors that are being asked to do so much. Our sailors and officers at sea are being asked to do more than we should ask them to do. The recent fatalities are proof of this and are completely avoidable. The Navy’s response so far has been inadequate at best.

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What should the Navy being doing? A thorough, advanced root cause analysis and generic cause analysis of the collisions and grounding in the 7th Fleet. And if you know me, you know that I think they should be using TapRooT® to do this.

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In TapRooT®, once you complete the analysis of the specific causes of a particular accident/incident, the next step is to identify the Generic Causes of the problems that caused that particular incident. Generic Causes are:

Generic Cause

The systemic cause that allows a root cause to exist.
Fixing the Generic Cause eliminates whole classes of specific root causes.

The normal process for finding generic causes is to look at each specific root cause that you have identified using the Root Cause Tree® and see if there is a generic causes using a three step process. The three steps are:

  1. Review the “Ideas for Generic Problems” section of the Corrective Action Helper® Guide for the root causes you have identified.
  2. Ask: “Does the same problem exist in more places?
  3. Ask: “What in the system is causing this Generic Cause to exist?”

It is helpful to have a database of thoroughly investigated previous problems when answering these question.

TapRooT® Users know about the Root Cause Tree® and the Corrective Action Helper® Guide and how to use them to perform advanced root cause analysis and develop effective corrective actions. If you haven’t been trained to use the TapRooT® System, I would recommend attending the 5-Day Advanced TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Team Leader Training or reading the TapRooT® Essentials & Major Investigations Books.

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Unfortunately, we don’t have all the data from the recent and perhaps still incomplete Navy investigations to perform a TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis. What do we have? The press releases and news coverage of the accidents. From that information we can get a hint at the generic causes for these accidents.

Before I list the generic causes we are guessing at and discuss potential fixes, here is a disclaimer. BEFORE I would guarantee that these generic causes are accurate and that these corrective actions would be effective, I would need to perform an in-depth investigation and root cause analysis of the recent accidents and then determine the generic causes. Since that is not possible (the Navy is not a TapRooT® User), the following is just a guess based on my experience…

GENERIC CAUSES

1. INADEQUATE NUMBER OF SHIPS FOR THE USA FOREIGN POLICY COMMITMENTS

2. INADEQUATE STAFFING OF THE SHIPS WE HAVE

3. INADEQUATE TRAINING OF THE CREWS OF THE SHIPS WE HAVE

4. INADEQUATE WATCH SCHEDULES AND PRIORITIZATION OF TASKS FOR UNDERWAY REQUIREMENTS

5. INAEQUATE CREW TEAMWORK AND CREW TEAMWORK TRAINING

Some of these problems should be fairly easy to fix in six months to two years. Others will be difficult to fix and may take a decade if there is the will to invest in a capable fleet. All of the problems must be fixed to significantly reduce the risk of these types of accidents in the future. Without fixes, the blood of sailors killed in future collisions will be on the hands of current naval leadership.

POTENTIAL FIXES

5. INAEQUATE CREW TEAMWORK AND CREW TEAMWORK TRAINING

  • Establish a crew teamwork training class oriented toward surface ship bridge watch operations that can be accomplished while ships are in port.
  • Conduct the training for all ships on a prioritized basis.
  • Integrate the training into junior officer training courses and department head and perspective XO and CO training.
  • Conduct underway audits to verify the effectiveness of the training, perhaps during shipboard refresher training and/or by type command staffs.

4. INADEQUATE WATCH SCHEDULES AND PRIORITIZATION OF TASKS FOR UNDERWAY REQUIREMENTS

  • Develop a standard watch rotation schedule to minimize fatigue.
  • Review underway requirements and prioritize to allow for adequate rest.
  • Allow daytime sleeping to reduce fatigue.
  • Minimize noise during daytime sleeping hours to allow for rest.
  • Review underway drills and non-essential training that adds to fatigue. Schedule drills and training to allow for daytime sleeping hours.
  • Train junior officers, senior non-commissions officers, department heads, XOs, and COs in fatigue minimization strategies.
  • Implement a fatigue testing strategy for use to evaluate crew fatigue and numerically score fatigue to provide guidance for CO’s when fatigue is becoming excessive.

3. INADEQUATE TRAINING OF THE CREWS OF THE SHIPS WE HAVE

This corrective action is difficult because a through training requirement analysis must be conducted prior to deciding on the specifics of the corrective actions listed here. However, we will once again guess at some of the requirements that need to be implemented that are not listed above.

a. SEAMANSHIP/SHIP DRIVING/STATION KEEPING

Driving a ship is a difficult challenge. Much harder than driving a car. In my controls and human factors class I learned that it was a 2nd or 3rd order control problem and these types of problems are very difficult for humans to solve. Thus ship drivers need lots of training and experience to be good. It seems the current training given and experience achieved are insufficient. Thus these ideas should be considered:

  • A seamanship training program be developed based on best human factors and training practices including performing a ship driving task analysis, using simulation training, models in an indoor ship basin, and developing shipboard games that can be played ashore or at sea to reinforce the ship handling lessons. These best practices and training tools can be built into the training programs suggested below.
  • Develop ship handing course for junior officers to complete before they arrive at their first ship to learn and practice common ship handling activities like man overboard, coming alongside (replenishment at sea), station keeping, maneuvering in restricted waters, contact tracking and avoidance in restricted waters.
  • Develop an advanced ship handing corse for department heads that refreshes/tests their ship handling skills and teaches them how to coach junior officers to develop their ship handling skills. This course should include simulator training and at sea ship handling practice including docking scenarios, anchoring, restricted waters, and collision avoidance.
  • Develop an advanced ship handling course for COs/XOs to refresh/test their ship handling skills and check their ability to coach junior officers ship handling skills. This course should include simulator training and at sea ship handling practice including docking scenarios, anchoring, restricted waters, and collision avoidance. The course should also include training on when the CO should be on the bridge and their duties when overseeing bridge operations in restricted waters including when to take control if the ship is in extremis (and practice of this skill).
  • Develop a simulator test for junior officers, department heads, XOs, and COs to test their ship handing and supervisory skills to be passed before reporting to a ship.
  • Develop bridge team training to be carried out onboard each ship to reinforce crew teamwork training.

b. NAVIGATION

  • Perform a task analysis of required navigation shipboard duties including new technology duties and duties if technology fails (without shipboard computerized aids).
  • Develop a navigation training program based on the task analysis for junior officers, department heads, XOs, and COs. This program should completed prior to shipboard tours and should include refresher training to be accomplished periodically while at sea.

c. ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS

  • Develop a department head leadership program to teach advanced root cause analysis for shipboard incidents.
  • Develop a junior officer root cause analysis course for simple (lower risk) problem analysis.
  • Develop a senior officer root cause analysis training program for XOs, COs, and line admiralty to teach advanced root cause analysis and review requirements when approving root cause analyses performed under their command. (Yes – the Navy does NOT know how to do this based on the current status of repeat incidents.)

2. INADEQUATE STAFFING OF THE SHIPS WE HAVE

  • Develop a senior officer (Captain and above) training program to teach when a CO or line responsible admiral should “push back” when given too demanding an operational schedule. This ability to say “no” should be based on testable, numerically measurable statistics. For example, shipboard fatigue testing, number of days at sea under certain levels of high operating tempo, number of days at sea without a port call, staffing levels in key jobs, …
  • Review undermanning and conduct a root cause analysis of the current problems being had at sea and develop an effective program to support at sea commands with trained personnel.

1. INADEQUATE NUMBER OF SHIPS FOR THE USA FOREIGN POLICY COMMITMENTS

  • Develop a numerically valid and researched guidance for the number of ships required to support deployed forces in the current operating tempo.
  • Use the guidance developed above to demonstrate to the President and Congress the need for additional warships.
  • Evaluate the current mothball fleet and decide how many ships can be rapidly returned to service to support the current operating tempo.
  • Review the mothballed nuclear cruiser and carrier fleet to see if ships can be refueled, updated, and returned to service to support current operating tempo and create a better nuclear surface fleet carrier path.
  • Establish a new ship building program to support a modern 400 ship Navy by 2030.
  • Establish a recruiting and retention program to ensure adequate staff for the increased surface fleet.

Note that these are just ideas based on a Generic Cause Analysis of press releases and news reports. Just a single afternoon was spent by one individual developing this outline. Because of the magnitude of this problem and the lives at stake, I would recommend a real TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis of at least the last four major accidents and a Generic Cause Analysis of those incidents before corrective actions are initiated.

Of course, the Navy is already initiating corrective actions that seem to put the burden of improvement on the Commanding Officers who don’t have additional resources to solve these problems. Perhaps the Navy can realize that inadequate root cause analysis can be determined by the observation of repeat accidents and learn to adopt and apply advanced root cause analysis and support it from the CNO to the Chiefs and Junior Officers throughout the fleet. Then senior Navy officials can stand up and request from Congress and the President the resources needed to keep our young men and women safe at sea.

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Monday Accidents & Lessons Learned: Five People Die After Using Weight Loss Balloons

September 18th, 2017 by

 

According to the Food & Drug Administration’s report, five people have died since 2016 after being treated with weight loss balloon devices. The science behind this technology is that the balloon takes up space in the stomach after being filled with solution and this leaves less room in the stomach for food. The balloon is left in the patient’s stomach for six months while the patient learns to eat differently.

The five deaths occurred within a month of balloon placement.  We know that four of the deaths involved a balloon from the same manufacturer. However, nothing has been found linking the deaths to the medical device. In the TapRooT® System, an investigator would examine an incident like this by first creating a sequence of events. Once the sequence of events is completed,  more information would be collected.  For example:

Did the patient understand the risks?

Was the patient closely monitored by the healthcare team for possible deteriorations?

Did the patient understand which symptoms required medical assistance?

These are just a few of the types of questions that should be answered to help determine all the Causal Factors. There could be multiple things that went wrong. TapRooT® doesn’t stop at Causal Factors. Each Causal Factor is taken through the TapRooT® Root Cause Tree to find the Root Causes. Just like there may be (and probably is) more than one Causal Factor, there is probably more than one Root Cause that needs to be fixed to prevent this from happening again.

Mark Paradies recently posted an article that may be helpful in a situation like this, “Root Cause Analysis for the FDA.”

It takes some deep diving to understand all of the lessons learned here. Learn more about how to prevent unnecessary deaths like this in one of our upcoming 5-Day TapRooT® Advanced Root Cause Analysis Team Leader Trainings:

October 2: Knoxville, Tennessee

October 16: Orlando, Florida

October 23: Bogota, Colombia (Spanish)

October 30: Reykjavik, Iceland

November 13: Brisbane, Australia

November 13: New Orleans

November 27: Johannesburg, South Africa

November 27: Monterrey, Mexico

November 27: Perth, Australia

Root Cause Analysis for the FDA

September 13th, 2017 by

RootCauseAnalysis

What does the FDA want when you perform a root cause analysis?

The answer is quite simple. They want you to find the real, fixable root causes of the problem and then fix them so they don’t happen again.

Even better, they would like you to audit/access your own processes and find and fix problems before they cause incidents.

And even better yet, they would like to arrive to perform a FDA 483 inspection and find no issues. Nothing. You have found and fixed any problems before they arrive because that’s the way you run your facility.

How can you be that good? You apply root cause analysis PROACTIVELY.

You don’t want to have to explain and fix problems found in a FDA 483 inspection or, worse yet, get a warning letter. You want to have manufacturing excellence.

TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis can help you reactively find and fix the real root causes of problems or proactively improve performance to avoid having quality issues. Want to find out how? Attend one of our guaranteed root cause analysis courses. See:

http://www.taproot.com/courses

I’d suggest one of our public 5-Day TapRooT® Advanced Root Cause Analysis Team Leader Courses to get started. Then have a course at your site to get everyone involved in improving performance.

Want more information before you sign up for a course? Contact us by CLICKING HERE.

USS Fitzgerald & USS John S McCain Collisions: Response to Feedback from a Reader

August 30th, 2017 by

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Here is an e-mail I received in response to my recent articles about the Navy’s collision root cause analysis:

As a former naval officer (and one who has navigated the infamous Strait of Malacca as Officer of the Deck on a warship bridge twice), I read your post with interest and wanted to respond.  You understandably criticize the Navy for taking disciplinary action early on in the investigation process, but you fail to understand the full scope of the military’s response to such incidents.  Yes, punishment was swift – right or wrong from a civilian perspective, that’s how the military holds its leaders accountable.  And make no mistake: The leadership of USS Fitzgerald is ultimately responsible and accountable for this tragedy.  (Same goes for the most recent collision involving USS John S. McCain, which also led to the ‘firing’ of the Commander of the 7th Fleet – a Vice Admiral nonetheless.)  That’s just how the military is, was, and always will be, because its disciplinary system is rooted in (and necessary for) war fighting.  

But don’t confuse accountability with cause.  No one in the Navy believes that relieving these sailors is the solution to the problem of at-sea collisions and therefore the ONLY cause.  I won’t speculate on causal factors, but I’m confident they will delve into training, seamanship, communications, over-reliance on technology and many other factors that could’ve been at work in these incidents.  It’s inaccurate and premature for anyone outside the investigation team to charge that the Navy’s root cause analysis began and ended with disciplinary actions.  How effective the final corrective actions are in preventing similar tragedies at-sea in the future will be the real measure of how effective their investigation and root cause analysis are, whether they use TapRooT, Apollo (my company uses both) or any other methodology.

I appreciate his feedback but I believe that many may be misunderstanding what I wrote and why I wrote it. Therefore, here is my response to his e-mail:

Thanks for your response. What I am going to say in response may seem pretty harsh but I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at those responsible for not taking action a decade ago to prevent these accidents today.

 

I’m also a previously qualified SWO who has been an OOD in some pretty tight quarters. The real question is … Why haven’t they solved this problem with prior accidents. The root causes of these collisions have existed for years (some might say over a decade or maybe two). Yet the fixes to prior accidents were superficial and DISCIPLINE was the main corrective action. This proves the Navy’s root cause analysis is inadequate in the past and, I fear, just as inadequate today.

 
These two ships weren’t at war and, even if they were, blaming the CO and the OOD almost never causes the real root causes of the issues to get fixed. 
 
I seem pretty worked up about this because I don’t want to see more young sailors needlessly killed so that top brass can make their deployment schedules work while cutting the number of ships (and the manning for the ships) and the budget for training and maintenance. Someone high up has to stand up and say to Congress and the President – enough is enough. This really is the CNO’s job. Making that stand is really supporting our troops. They deserve leadership that will make reasonable deployment and watch schedules and will demand the budget, staffing, and ships to meet our operational requirements.
 
By the way, long ago (and even more recently) I’ve seen the Navy punishment system work. Luckily, I was never on the receiving end (but I could have been if I hadn’t transferred off the ship just months before). And in another case, I know the CO who was punished. In each case, the CO who was there for the collision or the ship damage was punished for things that really weren’t his fault. Why? To protect those above him for poor operational, maintenance, budget, and training issues. Blaming the CO is a convenient way to stop blame from rising to Admirals or Congress and the President.
 
That’s why I doubt there will be a real root cause analysis of these accidents. If there is, it will require immediate reductions in operation tempo until new training programs are implemented, new ships can be built, and manning can be increased to support the new ships (and our current ships). How long will this take? Five to 10 years at best. Of course it has taken over 20 years for the problem to get this bad (it started slowly in the late 80s). President Trump says he wants to rebuild the military – this is his chance to do something about that.
 
Here are some previous blog articles that go back about a decade (when the blog started) about mainly submarine accidents and discipline just to prove this really isn’t a recent phenomenon. It has been coming for a while…. 
 
USS Hartford collision:
 
 
 
 
USS Greeneville collision:
 
 
USS San Francisco hits undersea mountain:
 
 
USS Hampton ORSE Board chemistry cheating scandal:
 
 
I don’t write about every accident or people would think I was writing for the Navy Times, but you get the idea. Note, some links in the posts are missing because of the age of these posts, but it will give you an idea that the problems we face today aren’t new (even if they are worse) and the Navy’s top secret root cause system – discipline those involved – hasn’t worked.
 
Are these problems getting worse because of a lack of previous thorough root cause analysis and corrective actions? Unfortunately, we don’t have the data to see a trend. How many more young men and women need to die before we take effective action – I hope none but a fear it will be many.
 
Thanks again for your comment and Best Regards,
 
Mark Paradies
President, System Improvements, Inc.
The TapRooT® Folks

I’m not against the Navy or the military. I support our troops. I am against the needless loss of life. We need to fix this problem before we have a real naval battle (warfare at sea) and suffer unnecessary losses because of our lack of preparedness. If we can’t sail our ships we will have real problems fighting with them.

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Should you use TapRooT® to find the root causes of “simple” problems?

August 30th, 2017 by

Everybody knows that TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis is a great tool for a team to use when investigating a major accident. But can you (and should you) use the same techniques for a seemingly simple incident?

Lots of people have asked us this question. Instead of just saying “Yes!” (as we did for many years), we have gone a step further. We have created guidance for someone using TapRooT® when investigating low-to-moderate risk incidents.

Can you get this guidance? YES! Where? In our new book:

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

TapRooT Essentials Book

For “simple” incidents, we just apply the essential TapRooT® Techniques. This makes the investigation as easy as possible while still getting great results. Also, because you perform a good investigation, you can add your results to a database to find trends and then address the Generic Causes as you collect sufficient data.

Also, this “simple” process is what we teach in the 2-Day TapRooT® Training. See our upcoming public 2-Day TapRooT® Courses here:

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

Now … WHY should you use TapRooT® to analyze “simple” problems rather than something “simple” like 5-Whys?

Because:

  1. Even though the incident may seem simple, you want to find and fix the real root causes and not just focus on a single causal factor and end up with “human error” as a root cause (as happens many times when using 5-Whys).
  2. When you use TapRooT® for simple incidents, you get more practice using TapRooT® and your investigators will be ready for a bigger incident (if you have one).
  3. You want to solve small problems to avoid big problems. TapRooT® helps you find and fix the real root causes and will help you get the great results you need.
  4. The root causes you find can be trended and this allows analysis of performance to spot Generic Causes.
  5. Your management and investigators only learn one system, cutting training requirements.
  6. You save effort and avoid needless recommendations by applying the evaluation tool step built into the simple TapRooT® Process. This stops the investigation of problems that aren’t worth investigating.

That’s six good reasons to start using TapRooT® for your “simple” investigation. Get the book or attend the course and get started today!

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