Hesitant to Facilitate a Root Cause Analysis? These Skills Will Help.

Brian Hughes, Vice President

When we ask our root cause analysis students to share what part of conducting an RCA might feel the most uncertain to them, though they hesitate to admit it, we often hear that it’s the thought of facilitating a group of people through the process.  After all, many of our students are analytics who would rather wrangle predictable and controllable technical data than facilitate a group of people with differing work styles and opinions.  But students learn in Sologic training that facilitation skills may be even more important than analytical skills -- there’s no getting around it.  So, how do you take the mystery out of building facilitation skills?

First, students trained in root cause analysis skills need to be fundamentally convinced that the benefits of bringing together a group of people to solve a problem outweigh the challenges.  Second, if they follow the best practices we’ve found effective, the more they do it, the more comfortable they feel.  In fact, we find that the RCA students who are the most effective facilitators – and thus the most effective at making a positive impact on their organization -- are those who put their newly learned skills into practice on real-life problems as soon after training as possible and then remain active through regular practice.   

What are the benefits of bringing together a group of people to conduct a root cause analysis?  Why is it worth it?  

  • Working with a diverse group allows you to access more information and broader perspectives.   This combination creates a more complete picture and more thorough understanding. 
  • It reduces ‘sub-optimized’ solutions – solutions that fail to prevent recurrence or reduce risk.  Instead, the team finds optimal solutions that prevent recurrence, reduce risk, and work for everyone.
  • The group then “owns” the analysis – which achieves buy-in, engagement, and credibility.  There’s less chance for the analysis to be discounted due to personal opinion or bias; there’s more chance that it will be taken seriously, and the solutions supported and implemented.

So, what’s the best way to build the right team for each RCA?  Ask yourself:

  • Who has personal experience with this event, or events like it?
  • Who is knowledgeable about this equipment or these work processes?
  • Who will be a positive contributor to identifying the problems AND the solutions?  
  • Who will be a team player, and more focused on the conditional facts and causes, than on blaming others?
  • How can you best match the team size and make-up to the magnitude of the problem and its impact?
  • Who has training or experience with the RCA process?  The more people who are speaking the same language, the better.

Once you have assembled the team, the RCA will sometimes compete with their regular job responsibilities.  Therefore, facilitating the investigation with confidence and efficiency, while driving towards results, is critical.  The more you develop the skills covered in Sologic’s RCA training, the more effective you will be.  For instance:

  • Research the problem ahead of time and begin collecting data relevant to the problem.
  • Be an objective listener and do not filter or judge the input.  Collect it, document it, and seek evidence to validate it. 
  • Identify realistic expectations regarding the objective, time commitment, responsibilities and outcomes, and then make sure they are met.
  • Be well-versed in the most effective recognized methods for identifying causes, and be sure to use them as appropriate so you’re helping uncover what might otherwise stay hidden (either intentionally or unintentionally).
  • Because interviews are one of the most essential ways to gather information, develop your interviewing techniques.  Focus on your preparation; pay attention to employee needs; include other key departments and stakeholders; foster engagement; and ask the right questions, listen carefully, and document the information in ways that will be most useful.
  • Learn how to handle people-related challenges such as the tendency to focus on human error, disruptive group participants, and emotional sources or stakeholders.
  • Follow best practices for adding causes to the chart – the specificity, language and content will impact the ability to understand the problem and identify effective solutions.

Although newly trained facilitators may be hesitant to lead an RCA, they shouldn’t be.  By taking a little time to build and practice the skills that will make them effective, they will become the right people for the role (see previous blog on this topic).  Following these best practices will help make effective facilitation available for everyone.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Mollom CAPTCHA (play audio CAPTCHA)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.