What is the Cost of Your Investigation Process?
I firmly believe that if managers knew the real costs of their process challenges, they would make very different decisions. Do you track the costs of your investigation process? At a minimum, we should know the costs of the people hours we invest as we try to solve a problem. Ideally, we should also include at least some of the cost of process errors (waste) in our cost totals as well.
You don’t have to have an exact number here. For example, you can multiply a weighted average wage rate by the total people hours you invest to give you a good reference. However, cost is not a value to always minimize! Instead, we should try to optimize the hours and dollars we invest trying to solve a problem.
To do this, look for correlations between our time and cost measures and other key investigation process measures over time. Value is the goal. What quality of fixes do we get for the time we invest?
Investigation Process Safety
This should be one of the easier measures to obtain. If you have an injury as a result of the investigation process itself, shame on you. This can, and does, happen however. Additionally, one could argue that we should capture similar past injuries as part of the investigation.
At a minimum, we should track whether or not we experience ANY type of injury, no matter how minor, as a result of our investigative efforts. We should keep in mind that if we fail to secure a scene, release a scene too quickly, or continue to work when hazards exist, we will raise the potential for this to happen.
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Investigation Process Morale and Teamwork
How often do we damage our company culture when leaders investigate problems in an accusatory manner? How often do we blame people instead of systems and damage our leadership credibility? Morale and teamwork are not that hard to measure. Unfortunately, we often fail to even give these factors consideration when we look at investigation process effectiveness.
Surveys serve as the primary tool for measuring an investigation process from a morale and teamwork perspective. For example, you can use a post-investigation survey to gauge team and customer satisfaction with the investigation process itself. Plus, you can include a couple of questions with an investigation process involvement and effectiveness focus in your regular workforce climate survey.
Investigation Process Quality
The key question to ask here is “What indicators serve as proof that our fixes worked?” Many people feel that if the incident or problem being investigated does not occur again, then the fixes were effective. There is nothing wrong with the use of such an indicator. However, consider the use of more error-sensitive leading indicators on their investigation process effectiveness scorecard.
Behavior-based observation rates provide a better indication of fix effectiveness. Waiting for another bad thing to happen is not the best way to know if your fixes work or not. Instead, we should search for trends that show reductions in the errors, safeguard gaps, and equipment failures that led to the incident. Similarly, we should measure if the root causes we found now occur less frequently.
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Do You Need to Improve Your Investigation Process?
There are other investigation process measures you can track. If you trend your process measures over time, you will find some great initial indicators of investigation process effectiveness. Problem complexity and other factors will introduce some variation into this data. However, you can always segment your results to help account for such effects. We really don’t know if, and where, a process needs improvement until we begin to track its core safety, quality, people, cost, and profitability measures.
Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer, Great Systems
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