August 24, 2011 | Ken Reed

Root Cause Analysis Tip: Investigations – The Power of Generic Root Causes

I just received an email from a contact that is using TapRooT® successfully at his facility.  He said his company is asking him why his teams (which use TapRooT®) consistently come up with great investigation results.  Besides just using the tool as intended, he also stressed the importance of ALWAYS checking for Generic Root Causes.  This got me thinking a little more about why it is so critical to consider Generic Causes during each and every investigation.

As a reminder, Generic Causes are considered in Step 5 of the TapRooT® process.  After analyzing your Causal Factors using the Root Cause Tree® in Step 4, you then do a quick check to discover if any of those root causes are also generic issues in other areas of your company.  For example, if you find that Housekeeping Needs Improvement was a root cause of a particular incident (maybe someone tripped over a tool that was lying on the floor), you might write a few corrective actions to fix that problem:

1.  Pick up the tool.

2.  Put a tool storage cabinet in the workspace where the person tripped to allow for better storage conditions.

Your next step is to check to see if this Root Cause is also a Generic Root Cause.  You could ask yourself some questions to determine if that particular root cause (Housekeeping NI) is a more widespread problem:

a.  Do we have any other areas that have frequent use of tools?  (if YES)

b.  Is stowage of these tools an issue in these other areas? (if YES)

c.  What is allowing us to have poor tool stowage in these other areas of the facility?

You would now do a little research and write a few new corrective actions to address this generic issue of poor tool stowage throughout your facility.  Maybe you’ll find:

1.  We need more storage cabinets throughout the facility.

2.  5S survey by your lean experts might find a way to label stowage locations for all of your tools.

3.  You need a housekeeping audit plan established to check for compliance with your new tool stowage policies.

I consider looking for Generic Root Causes almost a freebee! You’ve already put some time and effort into investigating, analyzing and discovering the root causes of a specific incident (or Near Miss) at your facility.  Why not leverage that effort across the facility (or the entire company) and prevent future, similar accidents and problems!  Why wait for a similar incident to occur again, and then realize, “Hey, this is almost exactly like the problem we saw last month!”  Using Step 5 of the TapRooT® process to discover possible Generic Root Causes is a proactive method of improving the effectiveness of your investigations.  DON’T SKIP STEP 5!  Look for Generic Root Causes and watch the effectiveness of your investigations really take off.

If you’ve attended a  TapRooT® course and are ready to learn more techniques other TapRooT® users are using for outstanding results,  join us in 2012 for our exclusive 2-day Advanced TapRooT® Techniques course to be held February 27 and 28, 2012 just before the Global TapRooT® Summit in Las Vegas!


Ken Reed is a Partner at System Improvements, Inc.

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