April 27, 2011 | Dave Janney

Root Cause Analysis Tip: Moving from Reactive to Proactive

Happy Wednesday and welcome to this week’s root cause analysis tips column.

Let’s talk about the journey from being reactive to being proactive.  Mark Paradies and Linda Unger talk about this in Appendix C.12 of the TapRooT® Book.  I would like to add my 2 cents, for what it’s worth!

Most people come to our courses because they want to do better investigations.  That is no surprise because TapRooT® in known throughout the world as an effective process.  One of the things we do in the beginning of our courses is to ask why students are there and what they want to learn from the course, and better investigations is always #1.  However, we also ask at the end of the course what they will do with what they learned, and a large percentage say they want to use TapRooT® proactively.  Why did their priorities change?  Because during the course they see the power of solving problems BEFORE they have to perform an investigation.

It’s no secret to those who know me that proactive is my favorite part of our courses.  Why?  Because I have lived it; in one area I worked I spent 80% of my time investigating and 20% of my time trying to proactively solve problems.  This will wear you down.

When Do Bad Things Happen?

The challenge with doing things proactively is you have to be committed to do it!  We all get caught up in the “crisis of the day” and sadly, proactive activities get left behind.  We don’t have time to be proactive.  The problem is, though, that when we have to do investigations, we are already using time and resources.  And does bad stuff happen on Wednesday afternoon when you are fully staffed?  Of course not, it happens on Saturday night when everyone else is on vacation…except you of course!  And then what happens?  You lose some control over your world because the VP wants answers  – now!  You also might lose evidence if you do not act quickly enough, witnesses might forget details, you might have a regulator in your face, or a host of other problems associated with investigations.

Enjoy Your Weekends!

Wouldn’t it be nice if over time you could take the 80% and 20% I mentioned and flip that around?  It can happen, but it does not happen overnight, and takes commitment.  For my example, I eventually was able to change that 80/20 mix and I can tell you my life was a lot easier after that.  By the way, I was able to do all my proactive work on Wednesday when we were fully staffed.  How nice to actually enjoy a weekend!  And I got credit for the reduction in incidents.

What Does Being Proactive Really Mean?

  • It means auditing – and for audits to be effective, they cannot just find problems, they must SOLVE them; root cause analysis and corrective action is essential.
  • It means continuous improvement – it may be Kaizen teams, Six Sigma, or the basic plan/do/check/act cycle.  It means insuring your management systems contain the best practices and knowledge available to you from your industry, discipline, and the TapRooT® Root Cause Tree® and Dictionary®.  It means consistent commitment.
  • And as Mark and Linda point out in the book, it means not letting up once your performance improves.  I call this pushing the boulder up the hill.

So make a commitment to carve out some time.  Do an audit, or do a really good trending of existing audit findings.  Tell your safety committee to stop changing light bulbs and become a true CI team.  Look at your processes and make sure they include best practices.  Don’t give up.  And don’t forget to take credit for the improvements.  One more thing – enjoy your Saturday nights!

Thanks for visiting the blog and happy investigating….I mean auditing.

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