April 21, 2016 | Dan Verlinde

Technically Speaking – When is the PEN mightier than the KEYBOARD?

When System Improvements lets me out of my cage (the cage where all the code-monkeys bang on typewriters until the latest release of the TapRooT® Software is complete), I often find myself in a TapRooT® course. Next week, for example, I will be teaching the TapRooT® 2 Day Course in Portland, Oregon using the  TapRooT® VI software!

When mingling with the users of the TapRooT® Software at a course, I often get asked the question, “When should you use the software during your investigation and when should you perform the process without the software?”

I think people typically expect me to say, “ALWAYS use the Software!”, because, well, I’m fond of job security.  

But in reality, I believe The TapRooT® Software is a valuable tool in performing an investigation, but like any other tool, you should only use it to accomplish the appropriate task. Sometimes the PEN is mightier than the keyboard.


You would not use a chainsaw to unclog your toilet, would you?
If you answered, “No of course not!”, then keep reading.
If you answered, “Yes”, then maybe you should stop reading and go call a plumber.

So “When”, you ask, “do you use the software and when do you not?”
My answer, “Stop interrupting, I was just about to tell you!”

When you have a report of an incident and are just getting started, this is a great time to use the software. It is pretty simple to do:

• Enter 5 pieces of required information (Title, Description, Location, Classification, Date)

Pretty simple right?  Now you are in business, because the 7 Steps (or 5 Phases in Version VI) are going to guide you through the rest of the process.

The first step in that process is to create a new Spring SnapCharT® and add a few simple things to get your investigation started:

• Define your Incident (Circle Shape)
• Add the Events you know occurred (Rectangle Shape)
• Add QUESTIONS you want to ask when gathering evidence (Oval Shape)

After you do this, you are ready to go interview and gather evidence to answer those questions.

Can you type with the quickness of a stenographer, while making eye contact with who you are talking to and, oh yeah, remember to LISTEN?

Then hey, bring along the laptop, because you are a superhero (The Magnificent Multi-Tasker?).

If not, maybe a simple notepad (or tablet) and a print-out of your Planning SnapCharT® will be sufficient.   Although, TapRooT® VI DOES work on a tablet if you are feeling adventurous and mobile.

Once you have all your interviews done and your evidence collected, it is time to map out your sequence of events and build your SnapCharT®.

I actually recommend 2 different approaches at this stage. If you are doing an investigation by yourself, then by all means open up the software.

However, if you are part of an investigation TEAM, then you need to turn off that computer and projector.  You simply do not want an investigation team staring at a projector screen (or worse, a small laptop screen) as you assemble a SnapCharT® in the software.

Janet from EH&S will inevitably fall asleep and drool all over the conference table, Bobby from manufacturing is going to keep asking, “What does that button do?”, and Rick (who is supposed to be YOUR ASSISTANT) is going to keep pointing out your grammatical errors.  What is THERE, errr…. THEIR, problem?

So, bust out the sticky notes or a dry erase board and work it through as a team, ON YOUR FEET. You’ll be surprised at how engaging it can be. You can always take a picture of the results and easily assemble the SnapCharT® in the software later.

After you have a clear understanding of the sequence of events, and have added all the detail your conference room wallpaper can support in sticky notes, it is time for you to make like Han and go Solo.

Tell your team you will schedule another meeting to discuss Root Causes and Corrective Actions at a later date, after you have had some time to work through the findings.

Explain to them it is not them, it’s you. You just need some alone time to analyze the incident (and your feelings).

Are they gone? Okay, now it is time to fire up the software and:
• Recreate your SnapCharT® (while getting a soothing massage)
• Isolate your causal factors on your  SnapCharT® (during an avocado facial scrub)
• Run each causal factor through the Root Cause Tree® (while listening to Enya near a fountain)

Did you get to the Root Causes (and figure out why you lash out sometimes)? Well then…

Call up Janet, Bobby and Rick because it is time to reunite (it will feel so good)!

Review the Root Causes you found during your hiatus, but do not dare open up those Root Cause Trees® in the software! You are not here to revisit the past. You are here to move forward and make new catchy Corrective Actions that your audience (Management) is going to love to hear.

Feel free to use the software to consult the Corrective Action Helper® often. Work on that setlist until you have it perfected because the big show is coming up…

As you walk into the conference room, Janet, Bobby and Rick behind you, you know you have brought the goods to wow your audience (Management).

But what didn’t you bring? Your Root Cause Trees® or your FULL SnapCharT®s.

All you need to pull off the big show is your Presentation SnapCharT® (which you have pruned in the software to show only the information relevant to presentation), your Root Causes, and your Corrective Actions.

The lights dim, you take the stage…

Dan Verlinde is the Director of Information Technology and Software Development at System Improvements, Inc. When he and the code-monkeys are not making TapRooT® Software, he enjoys spa treatments, rock concerts, and poorly constructed analogies.

Technically Speaking is a weekly series that highlights various aspects of our Version 5 software, introduces you to the upcoming TapRooT® VI release and occasionally includes a little Help Desk humor.

Remember, just because it’s technical, doesn’t mean it has to be complicated!

Software, Software - Technically Speaking
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