Category: Meet Our Staff

Meet the Staff! Ninth and Final Week: Co-creators of TapRooT®

May 12th, 2011 by

Today’s Meet the Staff members are Mark Paradies and Linda Unger.

They co-created the TapRooT® System and co-authored the TapRooT® Book.

Co-creator of TapRooT®Mark grew up in Indiana and Illinois. He started System Improvements in 1988, and is still the President of the company. His favorite part of his work here is the people he gets to work with, along with the opportunity to help others save lives and fix problems. If he were an animal, he’d either be a whale due to their intelligence, or a soaring eagle.

You can see his LinkedIn profile at:

and he’ll be glad to accept all invitations to connect.

Co-creator of TapRooT®Linda grew up in Tennessee. She joined System Improvements in 1990 and is Vice President of the company. Her favorite part of her work is working with fantastic clients to develop their TapRooT® implementation plans – for example, in what areas do they want to improve by using TapRooT®, who gets what training, how will they use TapRooT® Software, and how TapRooT® will fit in with their other programs.

She loves seeing the great improvements her clients make in their businesses by using TapRooT®. If she were an animal, she’d be a road-runner because they are always going fast and she likes to get lots done.

Thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit more about our exciting, intelligent staff. We look forward to working with you in future classes, investigations, and Summits.

Find out more about our TapRooT® Courses here.

Meet the Staff! Week Eight: Instructors

May 5th, 2011 by

Welcome to the eighth week of our Meet the Staff series. It’s been fun to share info on our intelligent, hard-working, friendly staff at System Improvements. This week, learn a little bit more about the instructors that teach you TapRooT®!

Ken Reed is from Watertown, NY. He came to System Improvements from the US Navy, beginning his work here in 2005. He is a partner and Senior Instructor, as well as the point person for Equifactor® Equipment Troubleshooting Program and course development. He loves working with the “awesome” people at SI due to their great attitudes, motivation, and intelligence. Ken loves the knowledge that he is making an important contribution to others through his job. If he were an animal, he’d be a dolphin—sleek, smart, and always smiling!

Dave Janney is from New Castle, Delaware. He started working at SI in November of2008. He’s a TapRooT® instructor, using his expertise to share root cause analysis with students around the world. He gets great satisfaction in working with people from different industries, having been in his for a full 27 years prior to working with TapRooT®.

Chris Vallee grew up in Georgia and formerly was in the US Air Force. He began working at SI in October of 2007 and is a Senior Associate, Instructor, and Investigation Facilitator. His favorite things about working here are “the people I work with, the people I teach with, and the people I learn from.” If Chris were an animal he’d be a four-year-old dog, just old enough to relax and just young enough to still enjoy it.

Ed Skompski was born and raised in Panama City, Florida. He began working at SI in 1996. He’s currently a partner and Vice President of Market Development. He likes the people he works with, watching customers come to understand TapRooT®, and teaching courses. “The passion and impact we have on our customers is incredible and I love being a part of that,” he raves. If he were an animal he’d like be a cat, resting and enjoying life as it comes.

Next week, learn some fun and interesting facts about our President and Vice President Mark Paradies and Linda Unger, co-creators of TapRooT®!

Meet the Staff! Week Seven: A-Team

April 28th, 2011 by

A Team

Back Row: Ann, Teresa, Sarah; Front Row: Melanie, Nicki, LJ

Our Administrative Team, or “A-Team” as we call them, manages all our details and takes care of important customer service issues. Our A-Team ladies are the players we put in the game first, when we want the job done right!

Linda Jeffers, nicknamed “LJ,” resides right here in Knoxville, Tennessee. She’s been at System Improvements nine years, since April of 2002. Her job as an administrative assistant allows her to have flexible hours and interact with fun and friendly co-workers. LJ can’t figure out what animal she would be if she could, because she “can’t think of any animal that can survive only on chocolate”!

Mary “Ann” Pruitt is from Knoxville as well. She enters essential information into our customer database and other systems for SI, and has been doing so since March of 2008. Ann’s favorite things about working here are the friendliness that surrounds her and the spirit of cooperation she shares with her team to “get the job done.”

Teresa Petersen is from the east Tennessee town of Christiana. Beginning her work at System Improvements in October of 2008, she loves working with the fantastic ladies of the Admin Team, and enjoys a flexible schedule. When asked what animal she’d be, she says, “I try to keep my animal tendencies to myself.”

Nicki Burwinkle does administrative work and product sales, such as TapRooT® books, workbooks, and other various TapRooT® products. She began working here in September of 2005, and enjoys the great people she gets the opportunity to work with on a daily basis.

Fellow A-Team member Melanie Stansberry is also from Knoxville. She’s been at SI for the last two years, working as an administrative assistant. Her outgoing, sociable fellow staff members are the biggest reason she enjoys working at System Improvements.

Sarah Larson, like many of our staffers, grew up right here in Knoxville. She’s worked here about one year, answering phones, creating invoices, and entering data into the system. Being SI Controller Cherie’s daughter, you know she does a great job! Sarah’s favorite part of coming to work is enjoying the company of her friendly co-workers.

Alison Diggs

One of our longest-time staffers is Alison Diggs. Also from Knoxville, she began her indispensable work at System Improvements in 1996. She currently leads the Admin Team. Alison also heads up the product order process, yearly TapRooT® Summit, and is our one-woman HR Department. When asked which animal she’d like to be, she responds with a smile, “I prefer not to be an animal—I like being the Zookeeper.”

Meet the Staff! Week Six: Public Course Planning

April 21st, 2011 by

Public Course Planning TeamRachel and Judy put together all your arrangements and resources when you attend our Public Courses.

Sharp UT student Rachel Robinson was born and raised in nearby Alcoa, Tennessee. She began working at SI in January of this year.

Rachel is our Assistant Meeting Planner, working with Judy to find and book the finest venues for your next TapRooT® course. Working three days a week while studying at the University of Tennessee, this hard-working girl loves the flexible schedule her job offers.

And if she could be an animal, she’d love to be a horse—her favorite!

Judy Potok, our Public Course Meeting Planner, was born in Texas and has lived in Tennessee for almost 14 years. She graced System Improvements with her spunky Texan spirit In January 2010.

Her part-time work here affords Judy valuable family time, which she loves. She also enjoys connecting with people around the world as she establishes venues for our public courses.

If she were any animal, Judy would be a lioness. She uses her lioness-like hunting skills to find the perfect venue at the perfect price for each course, and to find the best values for her family as she cares for them.

Next week, learn all about our Administrative Team. Let’s just say, we don’t call them the “A-Team” for nothing!

Meet the Staff! Week 5: Tech Support

April 14th, 2011 by

Tech SupportFrom Left: Dan Verlinde, Zach Guzman, and Steve Raycraft take care of business at their weekly staff meeting.

Ever wonder who it is that answers all your TapRooT® software questions, develops new versions of the software, manages the website, and takes care of TapRooT® tech issues in general? Wonder no more—and meet our Tech Support Team!

Dan Verlinde is from the great state of Michigan and began at SI with a bang on the fourth of July, 2006. He’s the Director of Information Technology and Software Development– a long way to say ‘in charge of everything technology related.’ He loves the diversity of challenges he faces here at SI, including hardware, software, website, and teaching TapRooT®. If he were an animal, this jokester says he’d be Napolean Dynamite’s favorite animal, the “liger…a lion and tiger mixed.”

Steve Raycraft has lived all over the West Coast and began working at SI in June of 2007. He’s a Tech Support Specialist and enjoys the great work environment and the wonderful people here. If he were an animal, he’d be a loyal and playful dolphin.

Zach Guzman comes to us from sunny Sunbright, Tennessee. He began his work here in July of 2010, performing primary external software support. His co-workers here at SI are the biggest reason he loves to work here. If he were any animal, he’d choose to be a llama because, as he says, “Who wouldn’t want to be a llama?”

These fun and intelligent guys are just a few of the dynamic staff members at our System Improvements office. Stay tuned—next week you’ll learn about our Public Course Planning Team!

Mark Tops 4000 LinkedIn Contacts

April 12th, 2011 by

Screen Shot 2011-04-12 At 4.16.47 Pm

I’d like to be linked to every reader of this blog. If you would like to join my network, see my profile at:

To send me an invitation, click on the words “Add Mark to your network” in the upper right part of the page.

In the next box that comes up, click on the “We’ve done business together” button and select the name of your current company; type any note you would like to send in the box; and then hit “Send Invitation”.

That’s it!

Now for a question … Why would you like to join my network?

Perhaps the best reason is that as I travel, I try to invite prople from my network out to dinner. We have interesting conversations about performance improvement, root cause analysis, and many other diverse topics.

Of course, that’s just a start. The business social networking phenomenon is just starting to take off and it is amazing what you can learn from a large network.

Please send me your invitation to join your network (and thereby join mine) today!

Meet the Staff! Week 4: Sales and Legal

April 7th, 2011 by

Michelle Wishoun and Benna Dortch

Thank you for tuning in once again for our weekly Meet the Staff post! This week, allow us to introduce to you the wonderful women of our Sales and Legal team.

As our Implementation Strategist, Knoxville-born Benna Dortch proposes on-site TapRooT® courses and software. This inventive woman also created our quote database system and organizes the TapRooT® Summit golf tournament! Getting to know people from around the world, meeting people’s course needs, contributing to saving clients’ lives and money, and using her creative side—all these tie for her favorite aspect of working at SI.

Benna is brimming with positive energy, intelligence, and eagerness to face life’s challenges. It comes as no surprise that if she were an animal she’d be an otter. You “otter” meet her at this year’s Summit golf tournament! (Cheesy joke courtesy of Benna.)

Paralegal Michelle Young Wishoun (pronounced, as she often has to remind us, like “wish-on a star”) is also from Knoxville. She began working at SI in 2007, and gets great satisfaction from working closely with clients and helping them implement TapRooT® in their companies. And if Michelle were an animal? Thankful for all of life’s blessings she divulges, “I’d be a duck, and my name would be ‘Lucky’.”

We’re glad you came to listen to us brag on our amazing staff. Next week you’ll finally see the faces of the guys you e-mail for answers to your software questions. Yes, that’s right: Get ready to meet our Tech Support Team!

Meet the Staff! Week Three: On-Site Course Planning

March 31st, 2011 by

Tamara and Natalie

Welcome back to Meet the Staff! This week, get to know our on-site course planning team full of some dynamic ladies!

Texas girl Tamara Cook has lived all over the US, but says Knoxville her favorite place to call home. Since June 2006, Tamara has been entering course attendees’ data into our system. She also sends out our plaques and certificates, so she’s the one to butter up! She loves her flexible work schedule.  If Tamara were an animal, she’d be a chihuahua due to her devotion, stubbornness, and her sharp ability to catch on to new concepts easily.

Natalie Prendergast came to us in 2006 from Buffalo, New York. She coordinates on-site training courses and works with Australian course contacts. Through coordinating these courses, she has the opportunity to meet people from around the world, which she absolutely loves.

Ann Alexander has been with SI since 2009, and is from right here in Knoxville. She is our Assistant Meeting Planner, shipping course materials around the country and the world. She loves the people she works with here. If she were an animal she’d be cat so she could “eat, sleep, play, nap, and repeat!” When it comes down to the wire, though, she’d be a mama grizzly bear—don’t mess with her cubs!

We’re so glad to introduce our staff to you. Come back next week to find out all about our sales and legal professionals!

Meet the Staff! Week Two: Editorial and Media

March 24th, 2011 by

Meet the women behind the communications you receive from System Improvements about TapRooT®!

Barb has been working for System Improvements since June 2006, and moved to Tennessee from Indianapolis. She is our Editorial Director, writing newsletters, contracts, and web content.

Barb gets joy from “contributing to a greater cause: Supporting workers around the globe in making their workplaces safe so they can return home each day to the people they love.” If Barb were an animal, she’d be an independent, yet devoted dachshund. She has a “clownish sense of humor” and enjoys walking outdoors, but despises leaving her home when it’s wet and cold out!

Megan Craig comes to us from Kalamazoo, Michigan. She’s the newest member of SI, joining the staff in January of this year. She’s our Media Specialist, and loves to use her creativity to connect people to the training they need to stay safe.

If Megan were an animal, she’d be a brown bunny. Emotional and “warm and fuzzy,” she loves to be cozy with her loved ones. She feels at home roaming outside, and can’t get enough veggies!

Join us next week to find out everything you want to know about our On-Site Course Planning Group!

Mark Paradies goes over 3800 Connections on LinkedIn

March 21st, 2011 by

Had dinner tonight in Iceland with two people who I taught before in a TapRooT® Class and who are part of my LinkedIn connections.

The same day, my LinkedIn connections went over 3800.

TapRooT® Users, please send me an invitation and join my network. My profile can be seen at:

To send me an invitation, click on the words “Add Mark to your network” in the upper right part of the page.

In the next box that comes up, click on the “We’ve done business together button and select the name of your current company; type any note you would like to send in the box; and then hiy “Send Invitation”.

That’s it!

Hope to get your invitation soon.


Meet the Staff! Week 1: Accounting

March 17th, 2011 by

Ever wondered who’s behind TapRooT® company System Improvements? Now’s your chance to get to know our friendly, hard-working, intelligent staff!

Welcome to the first installment of our Meet the Staff series! Over the next few weeks, we’ll introduce our team to you department by department, sharing fun and sometimes quirky facts.

This week we’ll start with our Accounting Group.

Cathy Dunning hails from good ol’ Rocky Top Tennessee, beginning her work at SI in August 2007. Cathy takes care of our collections and receivables reports, and truly enjoys her friendly coworkers. If she could be an animal, she’d be a fun-loving, friendly walrus with a winning personality!

Cherie Larson has Chicago roots, but she’s lived here in Knoxville over 20 years and worked at SI almost five. Cherie is our SI Controller, making sure our financial records are in order.

She’s passionate about using her in-depth knowledge to build the accounting department here. Rather than be an animal, Cherie would choose to stay human! She’d never give up “the broad expanse of choices available in life and the challenges that come with those choices.”

Brenna Grimm came to us in 2010 from Ohio, the Buckeye State! She’s our accounting clerk, inserting data into our records. She relishes in the comfortable working environment at SI. If Brenna were an animal, she’d be a honu, a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, because she loves sprawling out on those Hawaii beaches!

Liliya Johnson moved here from Moscow, Russia, and began working at System Improvements in June of 2010. She is our Accounts Receivable Clerk, and her favorite thing about the job is the people she works with. She loves cats, so if she were an animal that’s what she’d be!

Debbie Rice, a self-proclaimed “International Citizen,” has lived all over the world—including the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, and all over the Eastern US!

Debbie began working at System Improvements in 2008, managing invoices for TapRooT® courses. She takes joy in the interactions she shares with our contractors. If Debbie were an animal she’d be a small marsupial called a quokka, because of their rarity.

Garrett Boyd grew up right down the road in Knoxville, and began his work at SI last June. He’s one of our accountants, and has fun working at System Improvements with his wonderful co-workers. If Garrett could be any animal he’d be a cheetah, with its fast, sleek hunting ability and keen use of its tail for balance when stalking prey.

Thanks for taking the time to learn a bit more about our accounting staff at System Improvements. Next week, get the inside scoop on our Media and Editorial Team!

Ken Reed Named Partner of System Improvements, Inc.

February 15th, 2011 by

System Improvements, Inc. is pleased to announce the promotion of Ken Reed to Partner. Ken previously held the position of Equifactor® Program Manager. Equifactor® is a systematic approach to equipment troubleshooting and root cause failure analysis.

Ken developed new programs for System Improvements clients, including an evidence gathering course. He contributed substantial improvements to the Equifactor® program course materials, and assisted with the updates to the TapRooT® (advanced root cause analysis) book and Corrective Action Helper® Guide. Ken has taught TapRooT® root cause analysis courses globally to hundreds of attendees.

Ken served in the Navy for 21 years prior to joining System Improvements in 2005. He served on four classes of nuclear submarines, including fast attacks, ballistic missile and research submarines. He retired from USS SEAWOLF as an E-9 (Master Chief Electronics Technician).

Congratulations Ken!

Mark Speaks About Process Safety and Admiral Rickover at the European Council on Health & Safety of the Conference Board

February 10th, 2011 by

Great group and my talk was well received.


We were hosted by TATA Steel (near Amsterdam).


The group.

System Improvements Celebrates 100th Issue of the Root Cause Network™ Newsletter

August 20th, 2010 by

Last night was a great celebration. Here’s the pictures …

100Th Year Anninaversity 077

100Th Year Anninaversity 072

100Th Year Anninaversity 069

100Th Year Anninaversity 088

100Th Year Anninaversity 096

100Th Year Anninaversity 108

100Th Year Anninaversity 114

100Th Year Anninaversity 120

100Th Year Anninaversity 123

100Th Year Anninaversity 067

100Th Year Anninaversity 116

100Th Year Anninaversity 117

100Th Year Anninaversity 064

100Th Year Anninaversity 061    100Th Year Anninaversity 063

100Th Year Anninaversity 058  100Th Year Anninaversity 048

100Th Year Anninaversity 055

100Th Year Anninaversity 050  100Th Year Anninaversity 044

100Th Year Anninaversity 043  100Th Year Anninaversity 053

100Th Year Anninaversity 033  100Th Year Anninaversity 032

100Th Year Anninaversity 026

100Th Year Anninaversity 059  100Th Year Anninaversity 028-1

100Th Year Anninaversity 051

100Th Year Anninaversity 023  100Th Year Anninaversity 031

If you don’t already get the Root Cause Network Newsletter (published bi-monthly), register for it here:

Mark Paradies Has 2000+ Connections on LinkedIn

August 16th, 2010 by


Thanks to those who have joined my network!

For anyone who is interested in root cause analysis and performance improvement and wants to join a growing group of liked minded individuals, I have three ideas

1. Join my network on LinkedIn. If you already have a LinkedIn profile, just go to my profile at:

And click on the “Add Mark Paradies to your network” link on the upper right portion of the page.

If you you don’t have a profile, consider going to and starting one.

2. Join the TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Users and Friends on LinkedIn. Click on this link to join:

3. Attend the TapRoot® Summit. This is the best place to meet face-to-face with people who are just as interested in performance improvement and advanced root cause analysis as you are. Look at the 9 different tracks, the 8 special sessions, and the 5 Keynote Speakers at this link:

Use the buttons on the left to review the sessions in each track (there are 87 breakout/best practice sessions to choose from) and then think of how much this knowledge could help your company. Then sign up at:

Mark’s LinkedIn Network Grows to >1000

May 26th, 2010 by

Mark Paradies, President of System Improvements and co-author of the book, TapRooT® – Changing the Way the World Solves Problems, has surpassed 1000 people that have joined his LinkedIn professional network.

See his LinkedIn profile at:


Send Mark an invitation and you can join his network too!

Use the “Add Mark to your network” link on his profile page.

UK Safety and Health Expo in Birmingham, England

May 15th, 2010 by

Linda Unger, Mhorvan Sherret, and Alan Smith attended the UK Safety and Health Expo and talked to attendees about the benefits of TapRooT®.

Here’s Linda and Alan busy answering the questions of attendees and explaining how TapRooT® could help them improve safety…


And here’s Mhorvan celebrating the end of a successful conference with an ice cream cone!


Ah … those wild and crazy TapRooT® Instructors!

Mark Paradies & Linda Unger (the Authors of the TapRooT® Book) Teaching Root Cause Analysis in Amsterdam

May 6th, 2010 by





Mark and Linda are great instructors, but so are the rest of the TapRooT® Instructor Team. Get more information about our courses at:

Mark Teaches During Day 1 of the 5-Day TapRooT® Advanced Root Cause Analysis Team Leader Training in Amsterdam

May 3rd, 2010 by

Yup, that’s Mark, President of SI, teaching from behind the computer …


While the students walk through an example using the Root Cause Tree® …


Learning how the essential techniques of TapRooT® work.


We always combine learning with hands-on experience in TapRooT® Courses.


Team exercises and individual hands are experience an integral part of a TapRooT® Course.


Attend one of our GUARANTEED courses and see how good advanced root cause analysis training can be. Then you will know how much we can help you improve performance at your facility.


for more course info, course dates, and course locations around the world.

Steve’e Wedding

April 24th, 2010 by

Recently, Steve Raycraft, our software support and IT guy, got married. I’m a bit slow in getting a picture posted … but I uploaded this one from my phone…


Mark Paradies to Speak at Conference Board European Safety Group Meeting in Dublin

April 1st, 2010 by


(Source: H.W. Heinrich, Industrial Accident Prevention, 3rd edition, 1950)

Did you ever wonder about the source of the ” accident pyramid” or the “iceberg” of causes (accidents at the tip and unsafe acts at the bottom)?


Mark Paradies will be talking about the source of these models and the problems one might have applying them. When? June 1. Where? Dublin, Ireland at the Conference Board European Safety Group Meeting.

If you are a member of the Conference Board in Europe Safety Group, I hope to see you there.

Not a member? Let me know and we can sit down and discuss over a beer at a pub. (use the “Contact Us” button above.)

(Note: Here is a past blog article about the accident pyramid:

Mark Tops 800 Connections on His LinkedIn Profile

February 4th, 2010 by


You can see Mark’s Profile here:

and if you are a LinkedIn member, send me an invitation to connect. You could be 801!

Also, consider joining the LinkedIn Group “TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Users and Friends.”

Good Luck Evan!

January 12th, 2010 by

evan_tie_taprootIt is sad to see a TapRooT® team member leave, but we had fun honoring Evan at a dinner party tonight.  Visit our Facebook page to view photos:

TapRooT® Fan Page

Let’s Connect on LinkedIn!

January 7th, 2010 by

System Improvements has a new company profile on LinkedIn! Connect with us at: System Improvements LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn has over 50 million users worldwide, and registered users connect with people they know and trust in business.

In case you missed them, here are some recent posts about LinkedIn from our staff:

Mark Paradies Reaches Over 700 Connections on LinkedIn®

Interesting Discussion on LinkedIn

Career Development: Get Linked In!

Mark Paradies Reaches Over 700 Connections on LinkedIn®

January 2nd, 2010 by

Keeping connected with TapRooT® Users is an important part of my job. It helps me get new ideas about root cause analysis and incident investigation; ways to improve human performance; and ways to improve TapRooT®.

In the past we’ve worked on keeping connected at the TapRooT® Summits, by our newsletters, by this blog, and through our TapRooT® Advisory Board.

Now we are working on keeping connected by new technology – social networking. I’m using the business social networking site – LinkedIn – to connect with both potential and existing TapRooT® Users.

Picture 3.png

I started this new way of staying connected back in August when I started my LinkedIn account. About the same time, Chris Vallee, who also works at SI, started a group for TapRooT® Users (TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Users & Friends).

The TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Users and Friends group now has 165 members and is the largest LinkedIn group for people interested in root cause analysis.

As of January 1, my LinkedIn profile has over 700 connections (individual people I am linked to and get updates from) and I’m also a member of about 50 groups.

If you would like to link up with me, see my LinkedIn profile at:

Connect with Us

Filter News

Search News


Angie ComerAngie Comer


Anne RobertsAnne Roberts


Barb CarrBarb Carr

Editorial Director

Chris ValleeChris Vallee

Human Factors

Dan VerlindeDan Verlinde

VP, Software

Dave JanneyDave Janney

Safety & Quality

Garrett BoydGarrett Boyd

Technical Support

Ken ReedKen Reed

VP, Equifactor®

Linda UngerLinda Unger


Mark ParadiesMark Paradies

Creator of TapRooT®

Michelle WishounMichelle Wishoun

Licensing Paralegal

Per OhstromPer Ohstrom

VP, Sales

Shaun BakerShaun Baker

Technical Support

Steve RaycraftSteve Raycraft

Technical Support

Wayne BrownWayne Brown

Technical Support

Success Stories

In this short period of time interesting problems were uncovered and difficult issues were…


Better Initial Information Collection Submitted by: Bill Missal, Senior Aviation Safety Inspector Company: FAA, Alaska Challenge Field investigators that, unfortunately, may not be trained in the use of TapRooT® collect initial information and then send it to trained investigators to analyze the root causes of aviation accidents using TapRooT®. The untrained field investigators may not …

Contact Us