Respecting expectations and solving Humpty Dumpty Syndrome

At the Ultrasound World VII Conference last May I got a great reminder during a discussion of root cause analysis (RCA). One of the speakers, wish I could remember who, said that any RCA process that doesn't end with solving the root cause of a failure sends the wrong message to the organization. Boy was he right.

When we assemble a multifunctional RCA team and announce that a failure was significant enough that we are bringing people together from all over the organization to find out what went wrong, we'd better plan on delivering a solution. Otherwise we're saying that once a major problem is identified and agreed upon by everyone, all the resources in the company are not equal to the task of solving it. Call it Humpty Dumpty Syndrome (HDS).

Friends, if "all the king's horses and all the king's men" can't solve one of the company's major problems, we're looking at a case of HDS. This suggests that we don't have the right men and horses on the job. I say this because it's a safe bet that the king isn't going to confess to being the problem.

It makes sense, of course, that problems should be solved. It sounds silly to discuss any situation where investigation is not followed by action. In most organizations, though, the reliability people who chair RCA sessions don’t usually have the responsibility for action. More often than not, especially in large organizations, their final product is a report. Sometimes it is a report and a stack of maintenance work orders, but the work orders aren't usually coordinated in any way that makes it clear how important they are as a set. This is also true of condition monitoring results.

I have listened more than once to glowing descriptions of the technical diversity that is being used to monitor equipment while being shown the file cabinets where the PdM reports were filed. The results weren't compiled and presented to management, let alone fashioned into action plans and followed up. They were just lovingly stored to show how well organized and diverse the reliability program was.

If HDS sounds a little too familiar to you, you might consider using RCA and PdM to drive corrective action that will make the organization proud of what they see when you announce a team effort. This month's Strategic Maintenance column, "Help your Core Team Hit the Maintenance Bull's-eye," ( deals with the issues of using an RCA team to develop and execute an action plan for solving a major equipment and/or operating problem.