February 2, 2011 | Barb Carr

Root Cause Analysis Tip: Don't Waste Time

Happy Wednesday, and welcome to this week’s root cause analysis tip column.

I would like to address the “elephant in the room.”  When I talk to people about improvement, sometimes they say something like this: “I understand, and that sounds great Dave, but we don’t have enough … ?” Time! Resources!  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (insert your excuse here!).  But seriously …

When people say that to me, I think they expect me to push back, but I agree.  None of us have extra time or resources; it’s a sad but true fact.  So how do you deal with this problem?  Simple.  You work more efficiently, so your time is spent more productively.

Appendix C.9 in the TapRooT® Book (2008 Edition) greatly guides saving time.  You can be more effective with:

  • A well-thought-out strategy
  • Technology
  • Management understanding
  • Preparation
  • Help from people in the field
  • Proper use of the SnapCharT®


So what about strategy?

Having a strategy means you decide exactly what needs to be investigated, to what extent, and how.  While most of us would agree major incidents should be fully investigated, the minor ones are less obvious.  While TapRooT® is fully scalable and is perfect for minor incidents, you may not have the time and resources to tackle every problem individually.  If you do want to investigate them, they take less time and can be done by one person rather than a team (although a second set of eyes can help).

But if you can take the minor incidents and do a good trend analysis, you can tackle your problems as groups. Pareto the issues, choose the top ones, map out the process, and do root cause analysis. Always consider risk and cost when deciding what to investigate. And make sure your strategy is defined and written so there is no confusion.


As for technology, use TapRooT® software!  You can also use trending tools in MS Excel and other applications.

Management Understanding

Management understanding: is that an oxymoron? But I digress; the best way to ensure management understands the process is to have them trained in TapRooT®. I understand it is hard to get people off the floor, but the time you spend training will pay off later. And don’t forget, the best way to explain an incident to management is by using a good SnapCharT®, one of the other suggestions listed above.

Use people from the field to help. This gives you extra resources, but it also increases understanding and cooperation.  And who knows best how to fix problems?  The people doing the work!  This is not a new concept but one many organizations don’t act on.


And finally, preparation.  The time to decide what to do is not after you have a major incident.  You should have a well-written plan that dictates exactly what happens when an incident occurs.  Who is trained and who can lead investigations, notification protocols, reporting processes, evidence collection/preservation, and investigation kits are all considerations that should be part of your plan.

So thanks for tuning in, I leave you with a final thought – work smarter, not harder.  Happy investigating.

Root Cause Analysis
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