Monthly Archives: February 2016

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Creating a common reality is a part of the foundation of the Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology.  It is important that language and definitions are consistent among all parties involved. When the Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology is applied correctly everyone who participates truly understands the value of the problem, what the solutions are and how they will affect the problem.

Establishing a universal reality is a bigger challenge than you might think. No one shares the exact same experiences or interprets information in the exact same manner. Good problem solvers know to take these different perspectives into account as they forge a path to the solutions.

Just as individuals apply their own unique perspective when conducting specific RCAs, companies apply their unique organizational culture when implementing an RCA process.  Establishing company standards by defining an RCA champion with clear expectations and implementation procedures in place will keep your organization on the path to RCA success.

Another way to stay at the top of your game is to learn from the experiences of industry peers.  Here we take a look at a conversation between Tom, an Engineering Team Lead and RCA champion and Jack, an expert Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology instructor. 

Tom (Engineering Team Lead): 

I have found that sometimes engineers and technicians do not have a real understanding of the meaning of “root cause.” They tend to think of it as a single poor design feature or failure like a “loose nut” or a single cause of the issue or failure. They seemed to be surprised when I recently identified ten root causes on the last job. They were confused and could not get their heads around having ten root causes. They said, “But what was the real single root cause?”

Jack (RCA Instructor):

You are so right. Many people have preconceived idea that there can only be one root cause. They are driven by this perception to that end. It is quite a limiting concept for those people. They can become quite tunneled in their thinking, offering a close-minded approach to their problems rather than an all-embracing search for knowledge and information that could lead to enlightenment. Some anecdotal information even suggests that this mind frame is taught and it quite difficult to rattle their cages and try to shift their paradigms. How do you define root cause?


I define root cause as an opportunity for improvement. A single root cause cannot exist on its’ own, there must also be at least one condition. Here, I cannot come across as too much of a know-it-all or people roll their eyes, so I need a quick snappy go to response that is quick and brief and simple and does not come across as a nerd or a geek. That’s just where I work, as there are no formal RCA people in this division – we all share the work on investigations and most are engineering failure investigations that I do out of my own volition, and share with my team.  In your experience, what are the major setbacks you have seen with people applying the RCA process? I’d like to get better and avoid these mistakes.


You are doing a great job, persevere. Changing peoples’ perspectives takes time especially if you are the only one flying the flag. A major key to success is making sure you are asking enough questions and following a process that demands these questions be asked. Sometimes people take shortcuts to speed up the process…less to think about…less time…must be better! And they can still argue that they have a solution. For simple problems this may even work and they could achieve a satisfactory result, but for complex problems this approach simply doesn’t come close to being comprehensive enough. The lack of knowledge and training in this area now comes back to bite them and their problems invariably don’t go away. Without a solid RCA foundation and process in place the structures within the company they work for won’t raise any red flags that something may be incorrect or ineffective in any way….so the end product of a subpar RCA (the report) is accepted.  If management doesn’t embrace the change then reverting to old acceptable habits is just easier. The key to avoiding these major failures lies in overcoming the resistance to change.  Involving your team in the RCA process and sharing your successes with management is a great way to gain support.


I got into the habit of now actually doing an initial draft RCA live in front of my team. I draft the RCA in a bound book which I have dedicated to this purpose and follow the cause and effect pathways like the software. I feel like this approach is more relatable with my team and I am able to get their input quickly. We are usually able to identify half a dozen possible causes in just a few minutes.  Afterwards I go to the software and expand on it. Then I formalize and save the RCA in the software which checks all my work.  

Hope you are in Sydney sometime soon, Jack. Your teaching techniques really work and I liked your style. I think in 20 years of taking training your lessons are the ones that have stuck the most with me.


If you have linkedin_banner.jpgquestions or ideas to share and would like to connect with people who have been trained in the Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology with ARMS Reliability join our Apollo Root Cause Analysis methodology discussion group on LinkedIn.