Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Am I doing something WRONG?

I recently received an email that caused me some dismay.  The email questioned the intent of the 4-day Latent Cause Experience.  Here is the line of the email that bothered me the most:
"Bob, why do you spend so much time teaching people how to do a Maxi-LCA in your 4-day Latent Cause Experience when few if any will ever lead one?”


The Latent Cause Experience is NOT a class designed to teach people how to do Maxi-LCA’s (although it does teach that).  (Maxi-LCA's are investigations of large, catastrophic events).

It’s also NOT a class designed to teach people how to do Midi’s or Mini’s-LCA's (although it does teach that also).

As a VP from a client-company said, the purpose of the 4-day Latent Cause Experience is to “change the way people think about themselves and their surroundings.”

People ought to walk out of the LCE “seeing things differently,” and according to much of the feedback I receive, they do.  Although this is going to sound awful,

“I could care less about teaching people how to do a Maxi-LCA.” 

I mean that.  It’s like eating.  If the goal is to eat, a person will get fat.  If the goal is to be healthy, a person will most certainly eat and a lot more.  The goal of the LCE is NOT to merely teach people how to investigate catastrophic events.  If that's all you do with your investigative efforts, your company will get fat and DIE. 

The LCE class was designed for a CROSS-SECTION of people in an organization, not just engineers and potential investigators, and the most common comment I receive is:

everyone needs to go through this experience.” 

I’m not saying this to boast, or to try to get more business, but instead to make a point.  The LCE is was designed for EVERYONE.  Many class critiques routinely say "I wish my wife (or husband) went through this class with me," or "I wish I would have experienced this a lot earlier in my life."

The people that understand this, and say "this class is for everyone" are usually the lower-level people -- the people in the field where the "real stuff happens."  The vast majority of these regular folks see the experience as a eureka that opens their eyes to all kinds of things. That’s the intent

Amazingly, the folks that typically are responsible for a company’s investigative efforts usually don’t see this.  They typically think the 4-day class is a Maxi-LCA training class.  Why is this?  Are the people responsible for driving investigative efforts detached from the reality in the field, and too absorbed in the bureaucracy of managing the numbers?

My newest client is a large Canadian firm.  They are “cracking my shell” in the way I see them handling their LCA’s.  Almost all of their LCA’s are being handled as Maxi-LCA’s.  They have stakeholder meetings for all their LCA’s, even for Mini-events.  At this point in their journey, they see little or no value in doing Midi or Mini-LCA’s.  Again, they do Maxi-LCA’s on Mini-Events.  It’s the sharing of evidence that occurs in a stakeholder meeting that they find of so much value, and then answering the question “what is it about the way I am contributed to this mini-event.”  They are passing all the people in their company, from foreman-level up to the President, through the LCE.  They know the LCE is not about doing Maxi-LCA’s on maxi-events. 

The “crudest” culture I’ve ever experienced is at a US-based drilling company.  I struggle every time I go there to work with their people (I have NEVER heard such filthy language).  They have also passed all their folks, foreman and up, through the 4-day class.  They flat-out told me that they need to change their culture, i.e., the way their people see themselves and one another.  That’s the reason they send their folks through the class.  They don’t send foreman to the class so that they can be Maxi-LCA leaders.  They send them to the class to help "change the way they think" about themselves and their surroundings. 

But I am obviously doing something wrong.  Too many people in responsible positions see the Latent Cause Experience as merely a “class to train people on how to lead Maxi-LCA’s.”

What am I doing wrong?

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Profound Learning

The only path to profound learning is through personal STRUGGLE!
Think of a serious incident that you have experienced.  If you are familiar with Failsafe’s approach to Root Cause Analysis (called Latent Cause Analysis), you know that all the people involved in the incident (the “stakeholders”) are required to admit, in front of other stakeholders:
What is it about the way I am that contributed to this incident?

Let’s consider a typical example, where a stakeholder might admit:
“I tend to ignore small warning signs, and I know this led to the incident.”
Any of this type of meaningful admission only comes through significant personal struggle.  The stages of the kind of struggle that must occur are similar to the “5 stages of grief:” denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.  Think about the struggle involved in each of these stages, and the resultant profound change of the person who endures them.
Intellectual, emotional, and spiritual struggle must precede profound personal learning. 
Profound personal learning is almost automatic as we live our natural lives, and normally occurs one-person-at-a-time.  The problem we face in our unnatural industries, businesses, and even societies is in spreading this profound learning from those who have personally experienced it to those who have not.  The spreading of this profound learning MUST occur if we are to avoid industrial and societal catastrophe.  We simply cannot wait for everyone to learn, one-person-at-a-time.
Think, again, of that same serious incident you have experienced and consider the people who were not directly involved.  Are any of the personal learning’s of the direct stakeholders applicable to other people?  For example, does anyone else (asides from the direct stakeholders) “tend to ignore small warning signs?”  The answer is, of course, yes!  All human beings are subject to the same tendencies, to varying degrees.
Whatever is presently true for these direct stakeholders is most assuredly true for many others.
Think about it – a select group of people learns a lot about themselves as individuals, and also as a group, and agonizes over how to spread this learning to people not involved in the incident.  The feeling is almost akin to a religious experience or conviction – an epiphany that is staggeringly important to the individual but who is typically at a loss of how to effectively share it with others.
Most, if not all the time the sharing of this type of profound learning is never considered as part of an investigation.  Consequentially most, if not all the time large organizations experience catastrophic events in different business units, but caused by the same underlying tendencies.
Therefore, isn’t it important, even VITAL for a group of direct stakeholders to answer the following question?
What have we learned that we think others ought to learn so that they can avoid the pain we have experienced?
Are we willing to take the time and expend the energy to answer this question, or will we instead accept the consequences of one-person-at-a-time learning?
If you see the value in the above question, answer it as clearly and bluntly as possible -- in one short sentence.  Break your stakeholders into groups of 5, asking each group to submit one sentence.  Then bring all their suggestions to the front of the room for discussion.  Finally, vote on the one that best captures the profound learning.
But answering this question is not enough!
Merely sending out a mass e-mail, or publishing a large report, or making a business-wide announcement would be like adding a drip of honey into a cesspool.   Therefore, the direct stakeholders must determine how transmit this message to the remainder of the organization in a way that will result in STRUGGLE – agonizing, emotion-filled, gut wrenching STRUGGLE.  Remember the point of this article:
Intellectual, emotional, and spiritual struggle MUST precede profound personal learning.
The more daring the stakeholders are willing to be in the translation of their learning, the more effective the dissemination will be.  One author, relating a similar thought about his book-writing process, stated it in these words:
The real risks for any artist are taken in pushing the work to the limits of what is possible in the attempt to increase the sum of what is possible to think.  Books become good when they go to this edge and risk falling over – when they endanger the artist by reason of what he has, or has not artistically dared….. Salman Rushdie
Paraphrasing Rushdie’s quote to fit this article, “the real risks for any group of stakeholders are taken in attempting to push their learning’s to the limits of what is possible in an attempt to affect the most people.  Learning from things that go wrong becomes a most valuable endeavor of life when the learners go to this edge and risk falling over – when it endangers the learners by reason of what they have, or had not courageously dared to communicate what they have learned to others.”
It is a travesty of the ultimate proportions when personal, profound learning is not effectively shared.