Having watched one of the best Olympic Games ever this summer in London, with some jaw dropping performances being witnessed, it left me thinking about the reasons behind the athlete’s success. What is it that makes an athlete want to win, what gives them the desire to train every day for a chance of winning an Olympic medal?

Whilst listening to British Cycling’s performance director Dave Brailsford, he discussed the success of the British cycling team. “The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together”, he said. According to Dave it was these ‘marginal gains’ that underpinned the team’s success.

All of the athletes now need to build on the success of the London Olympics and prepare for Brazil in 2016. How will they recreate the success? How will the athletes break down their achievements into its smaller parts just like the British cycling team?

Do these athletes understand the ‘root causes’ of their success?

Let’s look at the definition of “root cause”:

“Any cause in the cause continuum that is acted upon by a solution such that the problem does not recur” (Dean Gano, A New Way of Thinking, Apollo Root Cause Analysis)

Whilst this definition is valid for solving problems that we don’t want to happen again, we may need to identify root causes of success, just like the Olympic athletes as they prepare for Brazil.

So instead of the term “Problem Definition” traditionally used in the Apollo Root Cause AnalysisTM method, we can replace it with the term “Success Definition”.

Success Definition

What To become an Olympic Champion
When Olympic Games 2016
Where Rio de Janerio, Brazil
Personal Lifelong dream
Ambition Be best at what I do
Cost Family life
Frequency Once


The Realitychart that results from following the Apollo Root Cause AnalysisTM method will no doubt have many conditions such as ‘tenacity’, ‘perseverance’, and ‘dedication’, along with actions such as ‘up at 5am’ and ‘run 10 miles’.

So whilst we do need to solve problems in the workplace and break them down into their smaller parts to achieve the marginal gains for improved plant performance; we also need to understand when our targets have been achieved and performances have exceeded last year’s requirements. Why did we achieve what we set out to achieve? Or, what went well? In this case, it’s not about preventing a problem from recurring but rather repeating a success.

Performing Root Cause Analysis on success is quite possibly a new concept but one that should not be ignored.

About Gary Tyne

Engineering Manager - ARMS Reliability EMEA and Certified RCA Instructor & Facilitator - Apollo Root Cause Analysis Methodology

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