What Kind of Analyst Are You?

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Brian Hughes, Vice President

It's Sunday morning... 6:30am. I've been up for an hour drinking coffee, eating breakfast, and scanning headlines. In a while, I'll dress myself in weather-appropriate biking gear and head out to meet friends for a 70 mile road ride in the rain. It's not everyone's idea of a perfect Sunday morning - I'll admit. But I'm a happier, more rounded person if I can burn off a few thousand calories several times a week. That means the people in my life find it easier to be around me... me included.

Sometimes the weather here in Seattle is less than ideal. That's because it really does rain here. October through June are generally wet months. What's a rider to do? Head indoors, of course. I belong to a gym that offers spin classes. In years past, I didn't have a lot of respect for the spinners. Why belong to a gym when you can just ride your bike? Duh! But after some prompting by my significant other ("You are driving me nuts, and not in a good way. Please, join a gym.") during an extended period off the bike due to weather, I tried it out. That first hour of spin class was one of the hardest hours of my life. Thoroughly humbled, I hobbled back home, grateful that I could train in a meaningful way indoors during the bad months.

I settled into a routine... spinning at least twice a week, and riding my bike as often as possible. What a great combo. But what became apparent to me was that the two groups of riders - spinners and cyclists - generally don't interact that much. Many cyclists never set foot in a spin class. And many spinners would feel extremely awkward clipping into a bicycle. In fact, there are even terms to help delineate the two activities - riding "outside" and "inside". "Do you ride outside?" my instructor/tormentor asked. I found out that she was exclusively an inside rider.

So what does this have to do with root cause analysis, you may ask?

When Apollo hosts training classes, attendees are "riding inside". The instructor has a lesson plan, manual, and example exercises. He/she fits the course regimen to the individual characteristics of each class. Investigation and analysis are simulated. It's a challenging class. But it's fun too - and students get a lot of value out of being challenged in the "inside" setting. It's also safe. There are no cars, potholes, slippery roads, jerky drivers, slippery manhole covers, drunk UFC fans (seriously)... nothing that will cause you physical harm. Root cause investigators put themselves at risk in the real world. They are held out to be experts. Their work is visible and often of great interest to the organization. But not while in the classroom... that's an intentionally safe environment.

But training is not just for fun. Once class is over, it's time to go to put your skills to work outside. Many RCA Facilitators find their first real investigation to be uncomfortable. This is because they are juggling two new and challenging tasks at once - analyzing a problem with a new methodology and facilitating a group of diverse, often skeptical, experts. Add to that the fact that many times people wait several weeks before putting their new skills to work... not a good idea. The skills you pick up in training have a half-life as does your confidence in those skills. Many attendees find out the hard way that they don't match up. Confidence remains high longer than the skills remain sharp.

To get the most out of root cause analysis training, we recommend you get started "riding outside" as soon as possible after class. No excuses - just do it (where have I heard that before?). What are you waiting for? A catastrophe? Believe me, that's no time to start.

Begin easy - don't put yourself at too much risk. Pick something simple, something that can be completed in a few hours. And then do it again at least two more times as soon as possible after class. This consolidates what you learned inside. You will effectively bridge the gap between the simulated class environment and the real-world investigative process. Involving others from your training will help. Take turns leading and offer helpful critique. And get your Apollo instructor involved - he/she will be more than happy to offer advice.

Twitter: @brian_hughes

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