February 17, 2010 | Dave Janney

Root Cause Analysis Tips – Proactive; Work Smarter, not Harder!

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

One of the questions I get frequently is “what if I don’t want to do an investigation on every issue?” A good example would be large numbers of audit findings, near misses, or minor injuries (like a paper cut). I would like to share my views on that question in this week’s tips.

You know your issues and your resources. It is a business decision how much time you want to spend on any given issue. One of the things we talk about in our courses is the iceberg theory; even if you have not been to a course you might be familiar with this theory.

When really serious incidents happen (the top of the iceberg), most organizations will do a thorough investigation with root cause analysis. But what happens for things further down the berg, such as a recordable injury or minor spill? What we say is that you should still do investigations on as many of these as you possibly can. The more you do, the more problems you will fix. But what about the things below the water…………?

Granted, you might not have time to do investigations on all your issues. And if you did, and did not take the time to do them properly, you would really be wasting your time and resources, and reacting to trends that are not valid. What I would suggest would be that in these cases, you do a really good job of categorization and trending, and then do a thorough root cause analysis on the major trends. You can simply Pareto out your issues and start attacking the main ones. But how…?

In our courses we teach you how to map out a process and audit proactively to identify the “significant issues,” the equivalent of causal factors in a reactive sense. Have you ever thought about doing that with your trends?

If you Pareto your audit findings or minor injuries, for example, you will see your biggest issues. You then map out the process to see what the problems are, and then do root cause analysis and corrective actions on those problems. You might find that some of the items you Pareto out might be part of the same process. For example, let’s say you are working in a retail environment and two of your biggest audit findings are “compliance signage missing” and “compliance signage with incorrect revision dates.” You have two issues, but they are both related to the same process, so you map out the process related to issuance and placement of signage, do root cause analysis and corrective action, and you can get both of these off your Pareto chart! Then you move to the next issue…!

I hope this discussion helps you think about things in a different way. Like they say, work smarter not harder. None of us has time to waste.

By the way, in order for this to work for you, your trends have to be valid. One of our special pre-summit courses is the two-day advanced trending course, but did you know that we also offer this course onsite? If you are interested in having us come to your site to conduct this course, call us at 865-539-2139.

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