June 4, 2019 | Mark Paradies

Are You Listening To Experts That Aren’t Experts (About Root Cause Analysis)?

Experts That Aren’t Experts (About Root Cause Analysis)

Have you ever:

  • Talked to someone who claimed to be an “expert,” and you realize that you knew more about the subject than they did?
  • Read an article in a professional society magazine by an “expert” and found technical errors and statements that just weren’t true.
  • Been pitched a product by a sales guy, and when you did your research, you found that he or she was giving you inaccurate information?

I don’t know why but in the last month, I’ve had three different experiences like those above.

The topic? Root Cause Analysis.

Since I’ve been studying human factors and root cause analysis for a little over 34 years, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I know more about root cause analysis than most people do. But what gets me riled up is people who profess expertise but don’t really know what they are talking about … yet they publically profess things that aren’t true.

Let me give you a couple of examples…


I read an article in a professional society magazine and the person writing to the magazine’s expert asked:

“What are the different tools used to conduct a
root cause analysis (RCA)? How do the RCA tools work?

First, if you are an expert, you should know that just listing all the RCA tools would take a page or more. I’ve seen 400+ page research white papers that didn’t cover the topic adequately. To the expert’s credit, they said there were many RCA tools.

But then the “expert” said:

“A simple tool can be just as effective
as a complex tool when applied effectively…”

I hate this answer!

The expert then talks about simple tools, including fishbone diagrams. The descriptions of the simple tools weren’t that bad. But the expert didn’t warn the novice user about any of the simple RCA techniques’ limitations or the problems the user should expect when applying the simple RCA tools.

An expert should know that:

  • These simple tools have inherent limitations.
  • These limitations have a scientific basis.
  • These limitations can’t be overcome by wishful thinking.

A new person (like the one asking the question) won’t know the limitations and will blindly follow the “experts” advice. The simple tools will cause the novice investigator to perform poor root cause analysis and the incidents will happen over and over again.

This bad “expert” advice could cost an employee their life (because a precursor incident was not fixed with adequate corrective actions). Or the bad advice could cost the novice investigator their job when the incidents keep happening over and over again.

Why would an “expert” give this bad advice? Because they really aren’t an expert. They are just repeating things they have been taught by other “experts” that didn’t know what they were doing. These fake experts didn’t do the research needed to thoroughly understand the topic.

Very sad.


I read an article written by a root cause “expert” comparing root cause tools (theirs and others).

They used an old trick. Throw several techniques together into a broad category and then use the worst tendencies of one of the techniques to compare the expert’s technique to the “bad” technique in the category.

It’s a simple trick. I’ve seen it used over and over. It makes me wonder … do people fall for this stuff?

The false comparison that riles me up the most is when people call TapRooT® a “pick-list.”

Anybody that has been through any TapRooT® Training or has even read one of the TapRooT® Books knows that the TapRooT® System is not a pick-list. TapRooT® has expert systems that help investigators go beyond their current knowledge (Equifactor® and the Human Performance Troubleshooting Guide). It has the TapRooT® Root Cause Tree® Dictionary to help people ask the right questions to understand the causes of human errors. It has several other techniques that make TapRooT® a root cause system.

So why would an “expert” put it in a category of “pick-lists” where it doesn’t belong and then explain the disadvantages that aren’t part of the TapRooT® System? I’ll give you three possible choices:

  1. They don’t know what they are talking about. (They aren’t an expert.)
  2. They are repeating something they heard from someone else and never did their own independent research. (They aren’t an expert.)
  3. They are making a false comparison to make what they sell sound better. (They are dishonest.)

Maybe you can come up with other ideas of why they would claim to be an expert and put out false information. If you can, leave your ideas in the comments section.

There was one more bad example but … I’ve blown off enough steam for now. I’ll save it for another day and create another rant about people who don’t understand human error and human factors (the topic of their bad information).

Let the Buyer Beware

If you are looking for a root cause system, don’t take advice from someone who isn’t an expert but claims to be.

Instead, verify their expertise BEFORE you listen to them. Or at least verify that the system they are telling you about has solid research behind it. Try some of these questions:

  • Do they really know what they are talking about? (What research they have done? What is their degree in? Who have they consulted with? Who are their references? How long have they been in business? What success stories do their clients have?)
  • Do they guarantee their training?
  • How many people use their system? How many people are trained each year?
  • Can you test their system in a public course before you decide to adopt it at your facility?

If you want to learn more about root cause analysis fundamentals before you make your choice? CLICK HERE.

Plus, learn about the “10 Musts” for evaluating a root cause system by CLICKING HERE.

The TapRooT® Answers

ANSWER 1: Are the TapRooT® Folks really experts in root cause analysis?

See our background at THIS LINK. But that is just a start. Want to know more? Here are some of the lesser known facts about my background at THIS LINK. Not only that, but the TapRooT® System has a long history with many experts contributing to the development. See THIS LINK for more information about TapRooT®’s history.

ANSWER 2: Is TapRooT® Training guaranteed?

YES! Here is the guarantee:

Attend a course. Go back to work, and use what you have learned to analyze accidents, incidents, near-misses, equipment failures, operating issues, or quality problems. If you don’t find root causes that you previously would have overlooked and if you and your management don’t agree that the corrective actions that you recommend are much more effective, just return your course materials/software and we will refund the entire course fee.

We stand by our product and we know it works.

ANSWER 3: How many people use TapRooT® RCA, and how many people are trained in TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis every year?

We train about 10,000 people to use TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis every year. We’ve been doing it for about 20 years. (And ten more years before that with lesser numbers in those years.)

I’d be glad to talk to you about our happy users but you can find examples by clicking on the SOLUTIONS tab above and going to the industry topic. You’ll find a success story for each industry.

The clients that I think are more intriguing are the ones I can’t talk about. They consider TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis to be their “secret advantage” and don’t want their competition to find out that they use TapRooT® RCA to improve quality, stop equipment failures, and achieve operational excellence (in addition to stopping human error and improving safety).

ANSWER 4: Finally, can you try TapRooT® before having on-site training to implement it?

Of course!

We have public courses around the world (see the upcoming schedule at THIS LINK). Not only that, but we encourage you to bring an example problem from your facility and analyze it at the course. See our course descriptions at THIS LINK.

Want to read more about why so many industry leaders recommend TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis: Then see THIS LINK.

The Choice Should Be Clear

I hope this helps you pick the right root cause analysis system and avoid the bad advice being provided by “experts.”

If you need more information or just want to talk about what makes TapRooT® so great, call us at 865-539-2139 or contact us by CLICKING HERE.

TapRooT® Implementation Advisors
Root Cause Analysis
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