March 27, 2008 | Mark Paradies

Summit History – Past Excellence Predicts a Blockbuster Summit in 2008

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Read this history of the TapRooT® Summit to understand why the TapRooT® Summit has developed into a highly rated, blockbuster event – our history of continuous improvement.

You will also understand why we decided to hold the TapRooT® Summit, what the Summit is, why you will want to attend to help your company turbo-charge performance.

Don’t confuse the TapRooT® Summit with the many excellent courses we sponsor each year. After all, what is the difference between a Summit and a course?

Although the Summit shares the TapRooT® name with the courses, the focus of the Summit is quite different. This quick Summit history lesson will show you the difference between the Summit and our great root cause analysis courses.

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I organized the first Summit in 1993 (to be held in 1994) because, after attending, and even helping organize, many conferences between 1983 and 1994, I saw a need for a conference with a focus on performance improvement, human factors, incident investigation, and the latest improvement technology. A conference that was NOT oriented toward research (although I appreciate good research). A meeting oriented toward practical applications that could be implemented at industrial facilities and in service organizations.

Wow! That’s a mouthful!

I also saw that there was MUCH to be gained by sharing information and ideas ACROSS INDUSTRY BOUNDARIES.

Thus this summit could not be held by one professional organization (with only a safety, quality, or equipment focus) or by a society oriented toward one industry (nuclear, refining, healthcare, aviation, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, utilities, mining, shipping, oil exploration, …). And it had to be international — as most companies were expanding to worldwide operations.

This was a problem.

I had to start from scratch to organize, publicize, and pay for a meeting that needed to be held, but didn’t have an already established audience nor did I have a conference staff.

Some (Linda) said I was nuts!

But I knew it needed to be done. And nobody else was going to do it. So I become a conference organizer.


So in 1994 we held our first Summit in Gatlinburg, TN (with 33 participants).

Gatlinburg Sunrise

It was a start. We learned a lot.

Feedback was very favorable.

And we decided to do it again.

1995Orlando – 72 participants.

At this Summit we started to figure out how to make the networking really special. That’s one of the things we’ve continued to improve as the Summit grows. Perhaps that’s why participants frequently remark about the valuable, new professional contacts and friends they make at the Summit.

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(We went to Disney on Saturday after the Orlando Summit.)

1996Nashville – 85 participants.

Benchmarking became even a bigger part of the Summit.

Also, this was the first Summit with a session dedicated to medical errors at hospitals – an idea that was ahead of its time.

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(We had a night at the Grand Ole Opry.)

1997San Antonio – 105 participants and growing strong.

Our first of many Texas Summits. We learned to make the networking even more enjoyable and how to get people together for a reception/party to continue networking in an informal environment.

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(The Alamo in San Antonio)

After San Antonio in 1997, we decided to make the schedule about every 15 months to rotate the seasons. So our schedule would shift and occasionally “skip” a year. Thus Dallas was in the Fall of 1998, but we skipped 1999.)

1998Dallas – 119 participants.

We started having TapRooT® User present the results of their work in Success Stories. A great way to get best practice sharing started.

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(We had a JR look-a-like. He didn’t look like the picture above. More like JR after a binge!)

2000Gatlinburg – 125 participants.

This was the start of the outstanding Keynote Speakers that wowed participants.

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(Linda and Mark with our keynote speaker – a Shuttle Astronaut that discussed the first Shuttle disaster.)

2001Galveston – 133 participants.

Two days before the Summit, a Tropical Storm dropped 2 feet of rain! Lesson Learned: This is the last time we will schedule a Summit on the Gulf coast in late June!

This year we also started expanding the pre-Summit course selection. We’ve grown from 3 courses to choose from in 2001 to 11 to choose from in 2008.

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(Band at the reception.)

2002Gatlinburg – 140 participants.

The networking and best practice sharing took a step up. And the reception was outstanding! Participants said it couldn’t get any better. But it did every year.

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(Mark at opening talk.)

2003Dallas – 155 participants.

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This was the Summit with the first TapRooT® Cup Golf Tournament – something that has become a fixture of Friday afternoon at the Summit and a part of the great networking that every Summit includes.

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(Linda at dinner with participants on Thursday night.)

2005San Antonio – 169 participants.

Wow! What amazing Keynote Speakers, networking, and best practice sharing. The Summit that couldn’t get any better has hit a new high.

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(Audience listening to the start of Scott Waddle’s talk. He was the CO of the submarine USS Greeneville when it collided with the Emime Maru (a Japanese fishing vessel). Most of the audience was in tears by the end of his talk – it was quite powerful.)

And golfing at the Quarry was also a high point.


2006Gatlinburg – 175 participants.

The best Summit so far. Each year we build upon the successes of the past and add new ideas to improve the best practice sharing and networking.

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(Panel Discussion Debate)

This was also the Summit where we learned that smaller hotels promote better networking. People get lost in mega-complexes. Therefore, we try to hold Summits in nice, affordable, middle-sized hotels with convenient facilities.

2007San Antonio – 224 participants.


Participates were blown away by the Keynote Speakers and how well the Summit was organized. The Summit is a well-oiled networking/benchmarking/best practice sharing machine!


To hear what past participants have to say about the Summit, click on the videos at the bottom of the Summit home page:

And for 2008?

For the first time we will hold the Summit in Las Vegas!

When? June 25-27.

We expect 300 participants.

Will you be there?

Get your hotel reservations early!

Keynote Speakers include:

Marcia Wieder
Ralph Hayles
Nikki Stone
Carolyn Griffiths
Ed Frederick

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Best Practice Tracks include:

• Investigation & Root Cause Analysis
• Proactive Improvement, Operational Excellence, & Lean/Six Sigma
• Equipment Reliability/Maintenance
• Human Error Reduction & Behavior Change
• Safety & Risk Management
• Corrective Action Program
• Medical Error Reduction
• Management & Measuring Performance
• TapRooT® Software Techniques & Administrator
• Certified TapRooT® Instructor

For complete details, see the Summit web site home page at:

So how has all this experience helped us create a Summit with unparalleled networking, benchmarking, and best practice sharing as well as exciting, motivating, practical Keynote Speakers?

First, we build upon the experience of each year to make each Summit better than the last. After each Summit we hold a lessons learned review. We review all the participant critiques. We discuss things that were a success and things that could be improved. And we come up with new ideas to try the next year. And we document ideas that worked that we want to continue. Since I have been involved in every Summit since 1994, I bring a wealth of history and experience to the planning process that helps each year get better.

Second, my full time job is looking for ways to improve performance and sharing that information about the new technology and ideas that I find. I learn things in the many TapRooT® Courses that I teach. I learn things at the half-dozen conferences I attend around the world (last year included conferences in Ireland, Italy, the USA, and England). I learn things from the TapRoot® Advisory Board Members (60 people) and TapRooT® Users around the world (tens of thousands of people). I learn things from the 26 TapRooT® Instructors – all highly qualified performance improvement experts – from around the world. Perhaps that why my e-mail box is overflowing.

Third, I use the information from all these sources to plan an event that will help people improve performance. I screen speakers and work with presenters to help develop content that is educational and useful. I use the knowledge I’ve gained three decades of studies in human factors, engineering, root cause analysis, performance improvement, equipment troubleshooting, and healthcare error management to put together a one-time-only meeting that focuses on solving problems by using proven, effective techniques and promotes the sharing of new ideas by hundreds of performance improvement professionals from around the world that participate in the Summit.

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Finally, I turn the production over to my skilled, dedicated staff. Every year scores of people stop me at the Summit to compliment me on the professionalism, helpfulness, and friendliness of my experienced staff.

Thus the Summit is so amazing because of the input and hard work of hundreds of people and the experience and creativity of the staff at System Improvements.

Each Summit is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn the performance improvement secrets that – if applied – will carry your facility to a best-in-class status. And each year the Summit is better than the last. Don’t miss this performance improvement event!

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