July 15, 2009 | Dave Janney

Root Cause Analysis Tips – Using TapRooT® with Continuous Improvement Programs

Happy Wednesday and welcome to this week’s Root Cause Analysis Tips column.

This week, the topic is Continuous Improvement.

Maybe you have used TapRooT® for a while now and do very good investigations and your incidents are starting to come down.  If you have reached a high level of performance in your organization, congratulations!  But once you have picked the low hanging fruit, what is the next step?  Continuous Improvement is the way to reach that next level. 

Advanced Root Cause Analysis using an expert system is essential to your improvement efforts.  Whatever method you decide to use for continuous improvement, TapRooT® tools can help.  

Let’s discuss some of the most common improvement methods and how you can integrate TapRooT®.

Basic CI – have you heard about the PDCA cycle?  This acronym stands for plan, do, check, act (or PDSA; plan, do, study, act) and represents a never-ending loop that requires a constant refinement of your efforts.  What I mean by that is you never really finish; you continue to improve the system, hence the term CI!
So how can you use the TapRooT® tools to help?  At a minimum, you should use the Root Cause Tree® during plan and check.  After all, how can you fix a problem if you do not understand the root causes?  You can also use the SnapChart® to map out the process during the plan stage.  The Corrective Action Helper® and Smarter Matrix can be used during the plan/do stages as well to help you develop action plans.

If you are a Six Sigma person, PDCA looks familiar, since it is similar to DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, control).  Again, the SnapChart®, Corrective Action Helper®, and Smarter Matrix can be used to map out the system and develop corrections.  In my experience, people usually love or hate Six Sigma, there is no middle ground.  What I will say is that the process does work if it is implemented properly (and the people who hate it usually did not implement it properly); however, I will say the typical root cause analysis tools commonly used in SS are weak at best.  Therefore, the most helpful of the TapRooT® tools for use with SS is the Root Cause Tree®.  If you have SS in your company, keep doing it, just improve it and get better results with the tools available to you.

Maybe your organization does Kaizen events.  Usually, these events have a smaller scope than the typical CI or SS project.  Nevertheless, they can really improve the business, and again, the Root Cause Tree® can help you understand the reasons you are having problems.  If Lean initiatives are part of your project (like 5S for example), you must analyze the causes of your waste before you act, otherwise, you could be wasting your time or worse, creating other problems.

Auditing and observations are probably the most common continuous improvement/proactive measures employed by organizations.  If you do not have such a program, you can start one from scratch using TapRooT®.  If you would like to learn more, read chapters 2 and 4 of “TapRooT®, Changing the Way the World Solves Problems (Paradies/Unger, 2008).”  If you already have an audit observation program, and it works well, use TapRooT® to improve it.  For example, if you already have a defined audit scope, audit checklists, processes, and you are comfortable that you are finding the issues, that is great.  What you should do now is use the Root Cause Tree® to improve your root cause analysis, and use the Corrective Action Helper® to help you fix the problems.  Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!             

Continuous improvement is like pushing a boulder up a hill; it takes time, effort, thought, and commitment.  But let me ask a question – would you rather spend your time auditing and doing CI or doing investigations after something bad happens?  The answer is obvious.

By the way, if you want to learn more, you should join us for the TapRooT® Summit in Nashville on October 7-9.  This will be three days of amazing speakers, best practices, and networking.  And, if you are interested in CI, here are a couple of sessions you might want to attend:

  •  “Improving Improvement.”  In this session, Barry Baumgardner and Kay Gallogly will discuss “How to Get Management Interested in Investigations, Corrective Actions, & Improvement Quality,” and Chris Vallee will show you “How to Target Audits for Better Performance Improvement” and correct some of the less obvious and less visible issues that could cause your next big incident.
  •  “How TapRooT® Fits into Proactive Improvement” discusses how the work you do to prevent problems can be leveraged with some of the most widely known tools by incorporating TapRooT®.  Richard Mesker will discuss Behavior Based Safety, Lean & Six Sigma will be discussed by Chris Vallee, and Hazard and Risk Analysis will be presented by Jim Whiting.

Thanks for visiting the blog and for reading this week’s Root Cause Analysis Tips.  Until we meet again, happy auditing/improving!

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