Root cause analysis (RCA) is the process of finding the event or condition that leads straight to an occurrence (another event). It is a systematic procedure used to identify the principal possible cause of risk. In risk-based management, root cause analysis (RCA) is more useful in predicting future events.
RCA is no longer a hindsight technique of investigation but a forward-looking one. It still relies on previous experience, statistics, and more heavily on data correlation. We are now after possible future causes of potential future risks (Frago, R., 2015.Risk-based Management in the World of Threats and O...).
Between such uncontrollable events and disastrous consequences lie human causality factor. If a tornado is coming in fast from the horizon, man’s decision where to go for refuge dictates his chance of survival or the risk of dying. He can stay where he is or go elsewhere and end up saving himself or still end up losing his life.
Figure 1 – Risk Starts from the Man who Made the Decision
Saw a Youtube video of the Persian Gulf war recently. I saw a man left the confines of his small car and ran towards a building in desperate bid to survive the bombing. The smart bomb from the fighter plane blew the building to smithereens with him in it. The structure was actually the intended target.
The man’s decision to run towards the target cost him his life. He has not logically calculated that smart bombs were too expensive to target one ordinary Iraqi man.
An NCPA article back in 1999 placed the laser-guided 2,000 pound bomb dropped from a radar-evading F-117 was worth $26,200 (NCPA, 1999. Smart Bombs" Cost Money -- Lots Of It).
As can be gleaned from the above predicaments, each conscious action or inaction represents a decision, a decision to do or not to do something. Always remember this:
Doing nothing is also a decision. It is a decision that sits on your head. “Status quo” is also a decision. No escaping around it!
Another interesting aspect of risks are the near miss stories like those from the 9-11 survivors. They are very mysterious in a big way, forcing us to draw deeper into our inner self, even from our subconscious.
A rare cigarette break to a routine schedule brought one outside the twin tower, a sudden errand caused one to be late, a booking typo messed up a passenger’s flight, and other unusual circumstances have removed one from the epicenter of 9-11 disasters (Park, M., 2011.Small Choices, saved lives) into safety.
The small choices they made were practically insignificant decisions yet the impact is life itself. What is greater than avoiding a threat to one’s very existence? No money can equal survival!
For some divine providence, those tiny decision fibers in the cosmic make-up of the larger risk-system network have saved numerous lives.
Miniscule as they are, they have the power to shape a person and a whole community’s future. It is truly uncanny and magical!
The statement that risk starts from the person making the decision is a true and valid notion.
Without man in the midst of the risk network, problems, issues, risks and root cause analysis does not make good sense anymore.
Figure 2 – Man is the Center of the Risk-Universe
Setting faith and religion aside for a moment, I can confidently say that everything in this world was made for man. All endeavors exist to satisfy man’s objectives. He is the centerpiece of risk-based management. He is the central figure in risk-based management.
“Each individual player within the risk universe will see things a bit differently compared to the next person, with some people interpreting things in exactly the opposite fashion. In each case, the person can see only one attribute.
The simplistic objective point of view is that risk is either a threat or an opportunity, depending on the observer’s orientation to the goal. If one sits on his most important goal and look at the potential risk, the resultant or prevailing consequence describes whether it is a threat or an opportunity (Frago, R., 2014.Risk-based Management in the World of Threats and O...).”
Who sets the aim? Man! Who manage things? Man! Who sets objectives? Man! Suddenly, sans religion and philosophy, the risk-universe revolves around man and his objectives.
When tracing the possible causes of potential risks, consider man to be on the center of the risk network and each risk event (Figure 2) . As such, it makes perfect sense that one has to focus only on root causes that he can modify, influence, or change.
As man cannot control or modify bad weather, volcano eruption, and tsunami, he skips them and concentrates on the next probable cause. They are not valid causes of risks even though they are origin of misfortunes and disasters. He has no choice but to jump to the next network branch.
In business, knowing that risk starts from the person making the decision place the burden of responsibility squarely on the shoulder of managers, directors and executive officers.
Knowing that small decisions can also have big impacts distribute responsibility to all. Industrial safety culture has already adopted the principle. It is about time to spread and apply the code to all activities.
After all, risk-based management is everything we do in life. It covers all human endeavors, regardless of whether it is big or small.
To read a simple example about the ordinary littlest thing in life that affects people, read my other article: “Frago, R., 2016.Risk starts from the person making the decision”
Note: Article was first published in LinkedIn Pulse on June 30, 2016
Rufran C. Frago – Author (01-Jul-2016)
Rufran is the author of the book Risk-based Management in the World of Threats and Opportunities: A Project Controls Perspective.
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