Category: Root Cause Analysis Tips

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!

Root Cause Tip: Equipment difficulty… did the equipment break or wear out?

August 28th, 2017 by

Teaching TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis and Equifactor® for the last 10 years, I often get this question…

“The tool/component broke while we were using it. Why can’t we just select Equipment Difficulty on the TapRooT® Root Cause Tree®?”

Simple, you have to pass the test below first

NOTE: If the failure was caused by:

  – improper operation;

  – improper maintenance;

  – installation errors;

  – failure to perform scheduled preventive maintenance;

  – programming errors;

  – use for a purpose far beyond the intention of the design; or

  – a design that causes a human performance difficulty

then the failure is NOT an Equipment Difficulty, but rather the failure is a Human Performance Difficulty

Trust me! If a tool, piece of equipment or product breaks, you know the manufacturer, vendor and supplier are going to push back to see if it was used properly and meets the warranty. Shouldn’t you ask first? We say yes!

During my 18 years in aviation in fuel systems troubleshooting and executive jet assembly, we used to have a phrase…

“Our mechanics or assemblers that grew up on the farm are our best and worst mechanics. They can get anything mechanical to work.”

Now there are signs that tools might not be the right ones for the job or that the job was not designed with good Human Engineering in mind. First test… look into the toolboxes in the field.

✔Are the tools modified
✔Are the tools old and worn
✔Are there tools from home

Okay, so tools are easier to see being misused, like a screw driver being used as a scraper or a pry bar, but what about equipment/components being used like a…

✔ Compressor
✔ Switch
✔ Valve
✔ Bottle

Now we must dig a little deeper in our TapRooT® Root Cause and Equifactor® Analysis. We start by mapping out our SnapCharT® (Sequence of Events with supporting Conditions) using system schematics to ensure we know what occurred with the equipment, people and system being operated. A knowledgeable system operator can elaborate on events and conditions such as:

✔ Energized open, mechanically closed
✔ Dynamic or static energy
✔ System work arounds and deficiencies

Why you may ask is this knowledge vital? If an operator knows how the light turns on when you flip a light switch on, then when system does fail, it is easier to start and understand the SnapCharT®.

To pass the first two tests while facilitating TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis, whether for a low to moderate level issue or a major incident, bring along that knowledgeable operator or engineer that can answer the following…

improper operation;
improper maintenance;
installation errors;
failure to perform scheduled preventive maintenance;
programming errors;
use for a purpose far beyond the intention of the design; or
a design that causes a human performance difficulty

Good luck and be safe! Please get rid of those unsafe tools and processes.

LEARN MORE in our 2-day TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Training.

Why is getting the best root cause analysis training possible a great investment?

August 23rd, 2017 by

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Why do you train employees to investigate accidents, incidents, quality problems, equipment failures, and process upsets? Because those events:

  • Cost Lives
  • Cause Injuries
  • Ruin the Reputation of Your Product and Company
  • Cause Regulatory Issues (and Big Fines)
  • Cause Expensive Downtime
  • Cause Missed Schedules and Delayed Shipments

You want to learn from past problems to prevent future issues. Its even better if you can learn from small problems to prevent big accidents.

Therefore, you invest in your employees education because you expect a return on your investment. That return is:

  • No Fatalities
  • Reduced Injuries (Better LTI Stats)
  • A Reputation for Excellent Product Quality
  • Good Relations with Your Regulators and Community
  • Excellent Equipment Reliability and Reduced Corrective Maintenance Costs
  • Work Completed on Schedule
  • Shipments Go Out On Time and On Budget

When you think about your investment in root cause analysis training, think about the results you want. Review the diagram below (you’ve probably seen something like it before). Many managers want something for nothing. They want fast, free, and great root cause analysis training. But what does the diagram say? Forget about it! You can’t even have fast-great-cheap (impossible utopia). They usually end up with something dipped in ugly sauce and created with haste and carelessness! (Does 5-Why training ring a bell?)

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What should you choose? TapRooT® Training. What does it do for you? Gives you guaranteed return on your investment.

What? A guarantee? That’s right. Here is our TRAINING GUARANTEE:

Attend a course, go back to work, and use what you have learned to analyze accidents, incidents, near-misses, equipment failures, operating issues, or quality problems. If you don’t find root causes that you previously would have overlooked and if you and your management don’t agree that the corrective actions that you recommend are much more effective, just return your course materials/software and we will refund the entire course fee.

How can we make such an iron-clad guarantee? Because we have spent almost 30 years developing the world’s best root cause analysis system that has been tested and reviewed by experts and used by industry leaders. Over 10,000 people each year are trained to use TapRooT® to find and fix the root causes of accidents, quality problems, and other issues. Because of this extensive worldwide user base, we know that TapRooT® will help you achieve operational excellence. Thus, we know your investment will be worthwhile.

Plus, we think you will be happy with the investment you need to make when you see the results that you will get. What kind of results? That depends on the risk you have to mitigate and the way you apply what you learn, but CLICK HERE to see success stories submitted by TapRooT® Users.

Don’t think that the return on investment has to be a long term waiting game (although long term investments are sometimes worthwhile). Read this story of a FAST ROI example:

One of the students in a 5-Day TapRooT® Advanced Root Cause Team Leader Course came up to me on day 3 of the course and told me that the course had already paid for itself many times over.

I asked him what he meant. He said while we were teaching that morning, he identified a problem in some engineering work they were doing, and the savings he had avoided, (he had immediately called back to the office), totaled over $1 million dollars.

That’s a great return on investment. A $2500 course and a $1,000,000 payback. That’s about a 40000% instant ROI.

How much value can you achieve from your investment in great root cause analysis? Consider these issues:

  • How much is human error costing your company?
  • If the EPA fines you $100,000 per day for an environmental permit violation, how much could it cost?
  • What is your reputation for product quality worth?
  • How much is just one day of downtime worth to your factory?
  • How much would a major accident cost?

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I’m not asking you to take my word for how much great root cause analysis training (TapRooT® Training) will help your company. I’m just asking you to give it a try to see how much it can help your company.

Just send one person to one of our 2-Day or 5-Day TapRooT® Courses. Then see how they can help solve problems using the TapRooT® Techniques. I know that you will be pleased and I’ll feel good about the lives you will save, the improvements in quality that you will make, and the improved bottom line that your company will achieve when you get more people trained.

See the list of upcoming public TapRooT® Training being held around the world:

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

 Or contact us for a quote for a course at your site:

http://www.taproot.com/contact-us

ACE – How do you find the root causes?

August 16th, 2017 by

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First, for those not in the nuclear industry …

What is an ACE?

An ACE is an Apparent Cause Evaluation.

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

So how do nuclear industry professionals perform an ACE?

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

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

That’s it.

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

The Curse of Apparent Cause Analysis

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

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

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

Here’s a flow chart of the process…

SimpleProcess

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

Is there anything worth learning here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interviewing and Evidence Collection Tip: Why Sketch the Scene?

August 3rd, 2017 by

Sketch the scene after video and photography.

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

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

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

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

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

How Much Do You Believe?

August 1st, 2017 by

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

How much of what you see online do you believe?

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

But the next question I asked was more difficult …

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

This made them think …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Company Culture Root Cause Tip: Trust Me the Foreman Said…

July 28th, 2017 by

No matter what industry that you work in, if you or your peers can say, “it’s common for management to argue or ‘explain away’ my concerns when you say this is unsafe…”

STOP!

If you do not stop, you will get to explore a root cause from the TapRooT® Root Cause Tree. The root cause will be Employee Feedback Needs Improvement. Unfortunately, it will also be associated with a causal factor that caused an incident, failed to stop an incident or made an incident worse when it occurred. Don’t forget, You are just one Causal Factor from your next major Incident. Can you prevent it?

During the root cause analysis, not only will you be exploring the culture of the company that allowed this failure not to stop, but you also will get the opportunity to understand what was broke.

Please be aware, that in this article and the included article links, I have only touched just the tip of each subject and introduced a very tiny part of our root cause analysis process. It is hoped that you leave with something you can use today and pay it forward. But also help you realize that there are numerous issues that must be addressed following an incident or before one occurs. We help you get there.

If you don’t want to have to read between three or four articles to do to an investigation, come to one of our public TapRooT® Courses or contact us for an onsite course. Why? Simple, each course provides Using the Essential TapRooT® Techniques to Investigate Low-to-Medium Risk Incidents, Course Workbook, the complete Root Cause Tree®, Root Cause Tree® Dictionary, and Corrective Action Helper®.

Interviewing and Evidence Collection: Prepare to Record the Scene

July 27th, 2017 by

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

People evidence
Paper evidence
Physical evidence and
Recording evidence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is There Just One Root Cause for a Major Accident?

July 26th, 2017 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why was the typo allowed to exist?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 24th, 2017 by

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

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

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

Chipotle? What??!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 20th, 2017 by

 

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

People evidence
Paper evidence
Physical evidence and
Recording evidence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How Long Should a Root Cause Analysis Take?

July 18th, 2017 by

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

Of course, the answer is … It DEPENDS!

Depends on what?

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

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

Now for the exceptions…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spin A Cause

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

One more idea…

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

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

July 13th, 2017 by

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Can bad advice make improvements more likely?

July 12th, 2017 by

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

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

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

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

What’s Fundamentally Wrong with 5-Whys?

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

Under Scrutiny (page 32)

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

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

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

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

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

TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Leadership Lessons

Are you a member of the LinkedIn Group: TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Users and Friends?

July 11th, 2017 by

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Sometimes people ask me what TapRooT® Users are doing about a particular issue. I recommend they ask the question on the LinkedIn Group: TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Users and Friends.

There are over 3000 group members and it’ a great place to post a question or your opinions.

To join the group, see: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/2164007

 

Interviewing and Evidence Collection Tip: Interviews are Valuable People Evidence

July 6th, 2017 by

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

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

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

People evidence
Paper evidence
Physical evidence and
Recording evidence.

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

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

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

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

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

Video:  The Cognitive Interview

Video: How to Interpret Body Language

Top 3 Worst Practices in Root Cause Analysis Interviewing

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

Causal Factors and remembering one of the worst incidents in American history

July 5th, 2017 by

We just returned from enjoying our Independence Day Holiday here in the US.

There were many good shows over the weekend about American History and during one I watched I was reminded of one of the worst events in our history (from a workplace safety standpoint); the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911.

Most safety professionals know of this incident as the Life Safety Code was partially born from the tragedy. I started to think about the incident in terms of TapRooT®, Causal Factors in particular. In our courses, we teach the concept of initiating errors, and chances to stop/catch/mitigate. There were many failures that day and many lost opportunities to stop and mitigate the event.

Possible causal factors that would be identified if TapRooT® would have been used:

CF – fire started (initiating error)

CF – egress blocked/not sufficient for the number of people to escape

CF – exit doors locked

CF – fire escapes collapsed

CF – fire hoses did not work

CF – ladders from fire department did not reach higher floors

I am sure there are more, but these are the ones that jumped out at me while watching the show.

It is a real shame that so many had to die for better conditions to become the norm.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire escape collapsed during the March 15, 1911 fire. 146 died, either from fire, jumping or falling to the pavement.

For more on Causal Factors and stop/catch/mitigate, see this earlier POST

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

July 5th, 2017 by

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

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

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

1. The first story heard is analyzed as fact.

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

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

2. Assumptions become facts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. The illusion of progress.

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

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

NO!

As Alfred A. Montapert said:

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

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

5. Complacency – Just another investigation.

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

The result? Complacency.

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

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

6. Bad habits become established practice.

Do people do more simple investigations or major investigations?

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

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

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

DON’T LET BAD PRACTICES INFECT YOUR CULTURE.

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

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

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

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

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

7 Traits of a Great Root Cause Analysis Facilitator

June 27th, 2017 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s about it.

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

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

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

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

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

Where? Have a look at these courses:

http://www.taproot.com/courses

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

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Root Cause Tip: Accountability NI

June 23rd, 2017 by

Growing up as a child, it was common to hear and sometimes say, “You’re not the boss of me!”

There always seemed to be some challenges to parents, teachers and friends, as we started to develop our independence. Somewhere through this journey of life however, we soon started to hear our peers and some cases out of our own mouths…

In other words, “I’m not in charge” and “I’m not the boss.”
Many people started wanting to give up responsibility as they get more responsibility.

  • I’m not the boss
  • I don’t get paid enough to make the decision
  • It’s their equipment, they should know how to operate it safely
  • That’s outside my job description

The issue of not really knowing who is in charge is commonplace in many of the incidents that I have reviewed. In TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis, we define accountability as ensuring that the person who is in charge of the working being done knows he/she is in charge and coworkers/management know that person is in charge. When many different companies with different functional roles work together, the more susceptible the work being performed is to the root cause of Accountability Needs Improvement.

Take the following work environments and think about what issues have or could arise…

Operation Room: Company A Surgeon, Company B Anesthesiologist, Local Hospital RN Nurses, Company C X-Ray Technician…

Deepwater Ocean Rig: Company A Operator, Company B Owner, Company C System Vendor Technician…

Construction Site: Company A Crane Operator, Company B Crane Rental Mechanic, Company C Labor, Property Owner, Company D Project Planner…

Here are a few best practices to help when performing the actual work:

1. At the beginning of each job, people introduce themselves and their role during the work to be performed that day. This gives each person a voice and role.

2. Client supervisors that must perform Tailboard and JSA meetings at the beginning of each job should familiarize themselves with the energy and line of fire danger areas for all equipment on site. Even if it is equipment used by contractors. The contractor also has a role to educate the client and other contractors in the area.

3. All people performing the task should discuss possible issues that may occur and what would require work stop and actions to follow when possible. Learn more about this concept of Crew Resource Management in our 5-Day Team Leader Course.

Remember, we all have a role to perform during a task. If roles are not defined and there is no clear sign of true accountability, that task may not get done, get done incorrectly and there will be no one with the right knowledge to stop the work when issues occur.

Six Sigma: Better Root Cause Analysis and Corrective Actions

June 22nd, 2017 by

I remember first learning about root cause analysis during Six Sigma training. The main methods we used were 5 Whys and Fishbone diagrams, but somehow we had a hard time arriving at good corrective actions. It took time and testing to get there, and still the fixes were not always robust.

Since then, I have learned a lot more about RCA. Unguided deductive reasoning tools like 5 Whys or Fishbones rely heavily on the knowledge and experience of the investigator. Since nobody can be an expert in every contributing field, this leads to investigator bias. Or, as the old adage goes: “If a hammer is your only tool, all your problems will start looking like nails”.

Other issues with deductive reasoning are investigations identifying only single causes (when in reality there are several), or ignorance of generic root causes that have broader quality impacts. Results will also be inconsistent; if several teams analyze the same issue, results can be wildly divergent. Which one is correct? All of them? None?

This is where the TapRooT® methodology has benefits over other tools. It is an expert system that guides investigators to look at a range of potential causal factors, like human engineering, management systems and procedures. There are no iterations of hypotheses to prove or disprove so investigator bias is not a problem.

The process is repeatable, identifies all specific and generic causes and guides the formulation of strong corrective actions. It is centered on humans, systems and processes, and the decisions they make every day.

The supporting TapRooT® Software is designed to enable investigators to keep efforts focused and organized:

  1. define the problem in a SnapCharT®
  2. identify Causal Factors and Root Causes with the Root Cause Tree®, and
  3. formulate sustainable corrective actions using the Corrective Action Helper® module

The TapRooT® process avoids blame, is easy to learn and quickly improves root cause analysis outcomes.

In Six Sigma parlance, the SnapCharT® is used for problem definition (Define), the Root Cause Tree® and trending for root cause identification (Measure and Analyze), and the corrective action process to define effective fixes (Improve).

#TapRooT_RCA

Interviewing and Evidence Collection Tip: How to Package Physical Evidence

June 21st, 2017 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you plan your root cause analysis?

June 20th, 2017 by

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General George Patton said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Order your copy by CLICKING HERE.

TapRooT® Optional Root Cause Analysis Tools

June 14th, 2017 by

All TapRooT® Users are familiar with the SnapCharT®, Safeguard Analysis, the Root Cause Tree® and Dictionary, and the Corrective Action Helper® Guide. But do you know about the optional TapRooT® Tools:

  • Equifactor®
  • CHAP
  • Change Analysis

These optional techniques are usually applied in more complex investigations.

Equifactor® is used to troubleshoot equipment problems. We found that many people try to understand the root causes of equipment failures BEFORE they really understand the basic reasons for the failure. That’s why we partnered with Heinz Bloch to develop the Equifactor Troubleshooting Tables and Software. 

CHAP is used for a deep dive on human performance issues. Once again we found that people tended to jump into asking “why” before they understood all the details about a human error. That’s why we developed CHAP to help people collect information about the human action before they start asking why things went wrong.

Change Analysis is an older technique that was derived from the work of Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe. The technique helps identify changes that could have contributed to the equipment failure or human error. 

How can you learn to apply these optional techniques to improve your root cause analysis? Attend one off our 5-Day TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Team Leader Courses. To see the locations and dates of our public TapRooT® 5-Day Courses being held around the world, CLICK HERE.

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Don’t have time to travel to a course but you do have time for some reading? Then order the TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis for Major Investigations book by CLICKING HERE.

Interviewing and Evidence Collection Tip: What Evidence Should You Collect First?

June 14th, 2017 by

Hello and welcome to this week’s column focused on interviewing and evidence collection for root cause analysis of workplace incidents and accidents.  Today, let’s talk about what evidence to focus on first during the flurry of activity that occurs after an accident.

Always begin with a SnapCharT®

Begin your investigation with a planning SnapCharT® – it takes just a few minutes to create an incident and add a few events that lead up to it into the TapRooT® software or into a paper-based version of SnapCharT®.  The SnapCharT® is a tool that will help you visually organize and prioritize evidence collection.

Pre-collection

So, what evidence should be collected first? Ideally, an investigator can photograph the scene at various angles and distances before carefully collecting the most fragile evidence and before disturbing the scene by removing larger, heavier, or less fragile evidence.  Once things start getting moved, it gets really tricky to remember the initial scene or understand the scene.

Locard’s exchange principle holds that every time a person enters an environment, something is added to and removed. This is sometimes stated as “every contact leaves a trace.” So, depending on the incident, the evidence may have already been altered in some way by first responders, employees or bystanders. It may also be disturbed by an investigator’s attempt to photograph it.  This is why it is so critical to cordon off a path for first responders and employees to minimize contamination (and this also helps first response and others avoid injury).

Take photographs or a video recording of the overall scene first.

After photography, collect fragile evidence

Fragile evidence is evidence that loses its value either because of its particular nature and characteristics, or because of the conditions at the accident scene. For example, blood in rain. Fragile evidence should be collected before it is further contaminated or before it disappears.

When the fragile evidence is removed, an investigator should begin by systematically collecting the “top” layer of evidence.  This may be photographing or collecting what he finds beneath that fragile evidence.  Collecting fragile evidence includes memorializing first impressions and observations in writing, including measurements of the scene that photographs cannot capture or record, including smells, temperature, and humidity.

Every accident and incident is different; however, this is a general guideline of how to get started with evidence collection.  Next week, we’ll discuss the best way to package evidence.

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

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