July 29, 2013 | Mark Paradies

Question: How is TapRooT® Different?

by Mark Paradies

Someone recently asked me:

How is TapRooT® different from other root cause analysis tools?

While answering the question, I concluded that it was the wrong question. The question should have been:

Why is it that so many industry leaders have chosen TapRooT®
to be their standard for finding and fixing the root causes of problems?

It’s not what makes TapRooT® different … It’s what makes TapTooT® clearly superior that should be the focus of the question and my answer.

Some people just don’t get this line of questioning. They say things like:

Every techniques has its advantages and disadvantages.

They just don’t understand that people can’t be trained in every technique.

Companies can’t afford to train everyone to be a guru problem solver.

Companies need a “best answer.” A root cause system that has been intelligently designed to meet the needs of the people in the field. People doing real investigations. A system they can adopt as a standard.

The techniques in this standard system need to be “human factored” – designed with the limitations and capabilities of the users in mind.

TapRooT® Design

When designing TapRooT®, Mark Paradies and Linda Unger not only used the human factors expertise that Mark brought to the development, but also worked with outstanding human factors experts (including Dr. Charles O. Hopkins and Smoke Price).

They human factored the TapRooT® System to make it usable. That makes it superior.

But the development efforts didn’t stop there.

Mark got reviews and comments from safety and reliability experts from a number of industries including aviation (Jerry Lederer, father of aviation safety), nuclear power and nuclear weapons (Larry Minnick, nuclear plant safety expert, and Paul Haas, DOE human factors & safety expert), and the oil/petrochemical business (Heinz Bloch, equipment reliability guru).

Those named are just a sample … not an exhaustive list. There were many more TapRooT® Users who helped in the early TapRooT® development efforts.
This made TapRooT® grow beyond one philosophy – beyond a single industry perspective.

Investigation + Root Cause Analysis

All this knowledge helped us develop not just a root cause analysis system, but something more … an investigation and improvement process that includes built-in human factored root cause analysis and troubleshooting tools.

When people tack root cause analysis on to an already completed investigation, they are missing the power of the techniques to help the investigator collect and evaluate investigative information.

That’s why TapRooT® is not just root cause analysis. TapRooT® is root cause analysis meshed with troubleshooting, an investigation process, and performance improvement processes (both reactive and proactive).

The whole system is made to work together seamlessly.

That’s different and superior!

Don’t Start Off Looking for “Why?”

I don’t want to give away all the secrets that make TapRooT® superior, but I will share a few more that should help people trying to decide if they should attend TapRooT® Training.

First, unlike many root cause analysis tools (think 5-Why’s or any cause-and-effect based system), TapRooT® doesn’t start out looking for “why” something happened. Instead, it starts out trying to understand “what” happened.

That’s a key difference.

One of the big drawbacks of many systems is that people using them jump to conclusions about why something happened before they understand what happened. It’s a natural human tendency. In fact, the more knowledge about a problem someone is, the more likely they are to think they automatically know the answer.

In TapRooT®, an investigator’s first goal is to build a complete SnapCharrT®.

A SnapCharT® visually shows what happened and as much information as can be gathered about the factors that surrounded what happened before one starts looking for root causes.

Users find this initial focus a major advantage because it helps them avoid the “blame trap” and the trap of jumping to conclusions.

Expert System Helps Investigators See Beyond Their Current Knowledge

The next major advantages of TapRooT® is the way TapRooT® looks at root causes and the tool used to guide investigators to the root causes of the problems causal factors.

In TapRooT®, we realized that accidents aren’t quite like falling dominoes. In fact, most accidents have multiple causes that existed prior to the accident and just never came together in the exactly wrong fashion at one point in time to cause the accident. Sometimes people call this coincidence “bad luck.” Engineers and statisticians may think of using Monte Carlo methods to simulate the seemingly randomness of real life.

Because of this, TapRooT® encourages investigators to identify all the causal factors and to find each causal factor’s root causes. Thus, there isn’t a “root cause” for an accident. Rather, there are multiple root causes for each causal factor that contributed to an accident.

Think about this as multiple opportunities to improve performance by improving multiple defenses to keep accidents from happening.

The tool used to analyze these causal factors is called the Root Cause Tree®. It is copyrighted and, in software form, patented. It is human factored to lead investigators to the root causes of human performance and equipment problems. Nobody has anything close to our tree.

Most of the development effort of the Root Cause Tree® was focussed on helping people in the field find the causes of human performance (including behavioral) problems.

The Root Cause Tree® is unique in the guidance it gives investigators in analyzing human performance issues including an expert system to start the troubleshooting of human errors, the categorization of best practices that is embedded in the tree, and the guidance for each category built into the Root Cause Tree® Dictionary.

Some say that the goal we set out for the Root Cause Tree® is impossible to achieve. We wanted to capture 90 – 98% of the root causes of human error in the categories on the tree. They say that it is impossible to include ALL the causes of human error in a model. Instead, they say that one should start out with an open mind and analyze each problem from scratch.

There are two problems with this argument.

First, the human brain thinks categorically. For example, the language we use to describe an accident is based on words (categories). So even if you try to start with an open mind, your brain is already categorizing.

We have found that the vast majority of investigators have not had specialized training in human factors. Therefore, they don’t know what they should be looking for (they don’t have the categories in their brain). This makes it almost impossible for them to identify the causes of human errors and develop effective corrective actions.

That’s why they revert to the standard answers of blame (counseling and discipline solutions), training, and, when all else fails, writing a procedure. It’s not that these answers are always wrong. It is that these answers are just a small fraction of what needs to be done to improve human performance. And the Root Cause Tree® provides a much more complete answer.

Second, we never said the Root Cause Tree® has all the answers.

The Root Cause Tree® is just the best list we’ve ever seen. We think it is closer to the 98% end of the scale than to the 90% end. And we know it is much more complete than the answers in the models carried in the heads of the people who come to our training.  Thousands of users that we train each year tell us that TapRooT®’s Root Cause Tree® expands the universe of problems they can find and solve …. It does not restrict their problem solving efforts.

Having designed TapRooT® and spent over 20 years improving it, I could go on with other major and minor advantages that we’ve worked so hard to incorporate into the TapRooT® System. But I’ll stop here with one more reason that TapRooT® is superior…

Continuous Improvement

We started with a great design but we didn’t stop.

We search for and implement ideas that make TapRooT® ever better, including ideas from international experts and our TapRooT® Advisory Board (60+ people from industry leading companies).

Better training, better software, and better techniques.

Continuous improvement keeps TapRooT® the state-of-the-art in root cause analysis and makes it superior.

TapRooT® as Your Root Cause Analysis Standard

Of course, there are more advantages to using TapRooT® – reasons that industry leaders around the world have standardized on just one method of root cause analysis. But by now you are probably thinking…

“Why haven’t we standardized on TapRooT® yet?”

Seems like a great idea.

Get started by attending one of our public TapRooT® Courses.

See the complete schedule at:


These courses come with a money-back guarantee:

Attend a TapRooT® Course. Go back to work and apply what you have learned. If you don’t find root causes that you previously would have overlooked and if you and your boss don’t agree that you develop better corrective actions that are more effective, just return the course materials and any software supplied and we will refund the entire course fee.

That’s how confident we are that you will feel the difference.

TapRooT® isn’t just different, it’s superior.

Already Using TapRooT®? Get Better!

How do those that already use TapRooT® keep up with the newest TapRooT® improvements to sustain their programs and build on their success?

They attend the TapRooT® Summit.

That’s the best way to learn even more.

For information, see:


and get registered!

Root Cause Analysis
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