Five Bad Root Cause Analysis Questions You Should Never Ask
Do you want to find the true root causes of a problem? If so, here are five bad root cause analysis questions you should NEVER ask.
How effective are your root cause analysis questions? As a Western culture, we don’t do very well when it comes to root cause analysis. All too often, we blame people, equipment, or the weather. You hear it at work when people talk about problems and their causes.
By the way … I did include some very good root cause analysis questions you should ask in this post.
DISCOVER MORE: What is Operational Excellence?
Bad Root Cause Analysis Question #1: Who should we blame?
This the worst question we can ask when we want to fix a process problem. Human error is often a contributing factor to a problem. However, it is rarely the root cause. When we blame people, we block the potential for true process improvement. Essentially, we predestine ourselves to weaker fixes, such as reminders, warnings, and punishment.
Unfortunately, it is human nature, in many cultures, to blame the person for the error. Similarly, people are prone to blame the equipment when a component fails. One key to work culture change lies in how we change our problem-solving conversations. How often do you hear people blame other people for problems at work? Conversely, how often is the process the focus?
To better understand a human error, ask ‘How did work process design affect correct task performance?’ Also, look at the types of support that are used to perform the task in an error-free manner. How did the person prepare for work? What type of work instructions did they use … if any? How did they learn to do the job? How many error-free task cycles have they performed? What is different when errors occur?
EXPLORE MORE: Process Improvement Strategies
Bad Root Cause Analysis Question #2: How can they be so stupid?
In our youth, we don’t make as many little mistakes as we do when we are older. Even as we age, people typically do the job right each day. Often, we make errors less than 5 out of every 100 process cycles. What can cause those ‘one time’ mental lapses or glitches that lead to rare, but problematic, errors? Why do people make silly mistakes?
Few humans can sustain mistake-free work without some form of work system support. Poor sleep, bad diet, stress or overwhelm, dehydration, and fatigue can all cause cognitive blips. Plus, these cognitive challenges can often occur simultaneously. How do your work team leaders determine if their team members are fit for duty each day?
Typically, job aids, sound ergonomics, training, rules, and supervision fill daily task execution support roles. As the risk potential from task errors increases, we should decrease our reliance on memory alone. We should flex our safeguards to accommodate the expected higher risk level for that daily work. How do your work teams ‘amp up’ their workplace safeguards when task performance risk increases?
LEARN MORE: Check out my VIRTUAL 2-day ‘Best Practices in Mistake Proofing and Corrective Action Writing’ workshop!
Bad Root Cause Analysis Question #3: Why won’t they just pay attention to their work?
Without direction and feedback on a consistent basis, people tend to go their own way. Similarly, when a leader provides little or no attention or feedback, people care less about their work. Plus, a lack of feedback can cause one’s attention to drift. Sheer job boredom, where little interaction with the work environment or equipment occurs, has a similar effect.
As a plant manager, if someone on my team was not paying attention, I would start with one question. How did we somehow fail to design a work environment that keeps everyone’s attention? Multiple strategies exist to help keep people focused – what was missing or failed? Also, these strategies must be flexed from day to day to accommodate shifts in workforce cognition levels. What daily strategies do your leaders use to keep their work teams focused?
One best practice uses work environment cues to keep peoples’ attention on task. Signs and supervisor warnings are two weak examples. More effectively, wearable devices can notify a person when they enter a relatively high-risk work area. Pop-up box and drop-down menu design play key roles in helping people complete tablet-based forms accurately and quickly.
DISCOVER MORE: How great are your work systems?