Monday, December 22, 2014

Let There be Light

Conceived in darkness, and then developed in a womb which was also dark, our birth must have brought an explosion of light into our consciousness.  Come to think of it, I suppose there was a point in my life when I had no consciousness whatsoever -- another form of darkness.

Light.  What is it?  Where does it come from?  Where does it go?  What does it “want?”

"Creative Commons Tehran Sunset"
 by Hamed Saber is licensed under CC BY 2.0 
I recently read a novel where one of the subjects, an eccentric philosopher, suggested something I’ll likely never forget.  He suggested that:

“Once light, always light.  No light ever goes wasted.  It always remains “light!”
He was talking about the light we receive from the sun.  All of life on earth depends on the light received by the sun.
Life absorbs light.  

What happens to that light when life dies?

We have a wood burning stove in our home.  According to the eccentric philosopher, when I put logs of oak into the stove and watch them burn, the flames I see are the same light that the oak tree once received from the sun.  I tend to believe this is true.

The brain is locked in total darkness.  It floats in a clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement. So how does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?  Consider a single piece glowing in your family’s stove.  That chunk of coal was once a green plant, a fern or reed that lived one million years ago, or maybe two million, or maybe one hundred million. Can you imagine one hundred million years? Every summer for the whole life of that plant, its leaves caught what light they could and transformed the sun’s energy into itself. Into bark, twigs, stems. Because plants eat light, in much the way we eat food. But then the plant died and fell, probably into water, and decayed into peat, and the peat was folded inside the earth for years upon years—Open your eyes, concludes the man, and see what you can with them before they close forever,
Doerr, Anthony (2014-05-06). All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel (pp. 48-49). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

What a marvelous existence we live in.  Wonders abound everywhere.  As I drive at night during this festive time of the year and see all the lights celebrating the season, I say to myself “hmmmm, now I know where all this light came from.”  As I write this blog article, my desk lamp is reminding me of the same thing.  When I turn on my smartphone and see the lit screen -- same thing.

I do not want this last blog post of the year to sound like an advertisement.  Actually, I never want anything we do at Failsafe to sound like an advertisement.  Then again, isn’t the sun itself an “advertisement?” Doesn’t the sun draw everything to itself?  Even the plants we have on our window sills follow the sun as it makes its journey across the sky as if the sun is saying
“Follow me, or you will die.”

Our response to the unexpected, unplanned pain in our lives is akin to a plant that has been suddenly shielded from the light.  The plant desperately seeks the source it needs, and so should we when we get in trouble.  That’s been our message since 1985, when Failsafe first went into business.  Things that go wrong are not what we think.  They are the only thing capable of prying us out of the ruts of our own objectives, desires, and goals to force us to look for the light.

So yes, LET THERE BE LIGHT!  It is my hope for myself, my loved ones, and all of humanity that we “open our eyes and see what we can with them before they close forever.”

Enjoy the Season!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Remembering Thanksgiving


Thursday, November 24th, 1960.
I was 13 years old.  My aunt, uncle and cousins were visiting for the Holiday.  Excitement was in the air.  The “male children” had to sleep in an unfinished and unheated attic to make room for adult guests.  We slept in army cots, with sleeping bags, and plotted practical jokes to play on my youngest cousin who just happened to be a girl.  What a blast!

It was morning, and the smell of bacon permeated the house.  My mother had the dining room table decorated to remind us that it was Thanksgiving Day.  My father was looking up the bus schedules to see when we could catch a ride into New York City to see the Macy’s Day Parade.

Later on in the day, after the Parade, we went to the Teaneck High School football game.  We always played our arch-rival, Hackensack, on Thanksgiving.
Then, of course, the feast!  Oh the fond memories.
I have so much to be thankful for.

I was blessed with a wonderful mother and father.  I have two great brothers.  I was exposed to the most influential elements of my life at a young age:  my Christian heritage; the Boy Scouts; and music (I played saxophone through my Junior and Senior High School years).  My parents supported me in almost every endeavor I undertook.   I felt loved.

As an adult, I continue to be blessed beyond all expectations.  I am married to a woman who led me to my Life, and who continues to do so every day.  I have been blessed with children and grandchildren who make me proud, and who continue to grow daily.  I am living in the place of my dreams -- in the mountains where nature can talk to me.  I have been blessed with a “calling” -- a “purpose in life” which I have realized few people have.

Don’t get me wrong, life has not been a bed of roses.  I have shared tragedies with my loved ones, suffer physical and emotional pain, and often wonder if I’m on the right track.  But I’ve realized that all these things have also helped me to become “who I need to be.”

Looking back, one of the most memorable Thanksgiving’s was a recent one -- one where all our children, spouses, and grandchildren came to our mountain home.  Yes it was hectic, but as we ate the Thanksgiving Feast that night, each of us expressed what we were most thankful for in the preceding year.  I remember tears -- my own and other’s -- tears of thanksgiving.
I hope this conjures up similar feelings in you.  I hope you have much to be thankful for.  I hope you have learned to be thankful even in the bad times.  
I’ll end this post by leaving you with a question to ponder.  I mean it.  Please spend some time dwelling on this question.  I have, and it’s helped me to see Life more clearly:

When you have that feeling of thankfulness that wells up within you, who do you feel like thanking?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I Want to Hurt Them Myself

A dialogue in a recent Latent Cause Experience seminar will have me thinking for a long time.  We were discussing two of the principles of Latent Cause Analysis:  
When something goes wrong, no-one is allowed to blame anyone.  Instead, all involved are required to look at themselves.
I had thought that this principle would encourage the ultimate in personal accountability.  Even the blamers ought to realize that they would get what they wanted -- the people that “did it” would be admitting their own roles.  I learned that this was not good enough for some people.
The second principle is known as the Golden Rule of a Latent Cause Analysis, which states:  We will try to understand why people did what they did to such an extent we’re convinced we’d have done the same thing if we were that person.  
I had thought that this principle would help people put themselves in another person’s shoes before they jumped to quickly into the blaming frame of mind.  I learned that this is also not good enough for some people.

Personal Accountability in Latent Cause Analysis
One of the seminar attendees, a manager, objected to these principles saying that he wanted the option to punish someone if he thought it appropriate.  I countered his objection by asking:

If you thought you might have done the same thing if you were the person you wanted to punish, would you still want to punish him?

Yes!  Just because I’d have done the same thing doesn’t make it right!  I thought to myself, “well that’s not a bad point!”

Well then, how would you feel if the person you wanted to punish admitted his error, and even suggested his own “punishment?”

That’s not good enough.  I want to be the one that imposes the punishment.
The discussion digressed into a fictional scenario.  Another seminar attendee said:  Let’s suppose someone did not follow a procedure, and because he omitted a few steps something awful happened and a person actually died.  Let’s also suppose the “culprit” admitted his role.  Even more, let’s suppose the person quit his job, and even walked into a jailhouse and locked himself behind bars for 30 years.  Would this be good enough?

The manager said “no, that’s not good enough.”  I would want to be the one that hurts him for what he did.

I’m not too sure I know what to make of this, but my “gut” doesn’t like it.
What do you think?  What does this say about the human condition?  Are we all like this?  If not, how many are like this?  Even more, what does it say about the hopes of learning from things that go wrong?  So many questions.

Please share your thoughts below!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Into the Wilderness

It is beyond my comprehension how anyone in this field of root cause analysis cannot wonder about the most fundamental questions of life.  We all know that the incidents we investigate have causes, that is, there are reasons why things go wrong.  In other words, none of us have ever investigated anything without coming to the conclusion that the things that go wrong in our lives happen for a reason. 
Recently, my personal thoughts have taken me to the subject of “the wilderness.”  I suppose that all of life is a step into the wilderness.  We either make large, intentional steps into the unknown by embarking on huge new ventures, or we simply get out of bed in the morning for another new day. 

 Whatever our present circumstances in life, we’re all the same when it comes to our journeys.  Whether we like it or not, we’re all stepping into the unknown.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are literally in a wilderness setting.  Let’s say you have slept in a tent, and have gotten up in the morning to embark on a 5 mile hike to a glacier in Alaska.  You are with a friend, because it’s dangerous to go into the wilderness on your own.  You have firearms, in case you encounter dangerous wildlife but you are out of range of any cell phone towers.

Although the above scenario is a specific one, all of life is like this in one form or another.  The “tent” is our beds that we sleep in overnight.  The 5 mile hike is our plan for the day.  The friend is “the people around us,” and the “firearms” are whatever we have chosen to take along with us to keep us safe.

But what would you make of it if you were were hiking to the glacier and you suddenly felt a severe pain in your chest, or if you turned your ankle on a rock, or if a boulder suddenly came rolling down a hill and destroyed all of your gear?

What do you make of it when you set out on your journey and significant things go wrong along the way?  Do you say to yourself “I probably should not have gone on this journey in the first place,” or “I was not sufficiently prepared -- I’ll be more prepared next time?”  

Or is something much more profound going on when we encounter unexpected, unplanned pain along our life’s journey’s?

As for myself, I have concluded that there is something much more profound going on -- and I think I’ve discovered what it is.  And yet, I have learned not to share my personal conclusions with too many people.  My understandings are mine.  Your understandings are yours.  I cannot force my understandings on you, nor would I want to.  In this respect, those of you who have taken the 4-day Latent Cause Experience class know my position on these things:  the people who have experienced pain while embarking on their wilderness journeys need to come to their own conclusions.cracks
But I would like to share the following quote byMalcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990).  When I first read it, I dismissed it as lunacy.  But the older I get, the more wisdom I see in it.  Think about it.  Dwell in it.  It might help you change the way you see things.
Looking back on life, it’s one of the things that strike you most forcibly – that the only thing that’s taught one anything is suffering, pain and failure.  Not success, not happiness, not anything like that.  The only thing that really teaches what life is about – the joy of understanding, the joy of coming in contact with what life really signifies – is suffering, affliction.
The unexpected pain that comes along in all of our lives seems to eventually drive us away from the world around us and deeper into ourselves, into an either conscious or subconscious quest that looks for answers nowhere else to be found.  Isn’t that, in itself fascinating?  Not to be morbid, but I wonder what was going on in the minds (or souls) of my mother or father as they laid on their death beds?  Never having been there, I don’t know.  But I have experienced debilitating setbacks in my life, both physical and emotional, and I know where my mind went.
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.  (Kahlil Gibran)
As we walk along the wilderness journeys of our lives, we will experience unexpected and unplanned pain.  Pain is the only phenomena of life capable of getting our attention when we are too wrapped up in our own self-created agendas.  When it comes, it is trying to tell us something profound.  
Those of us dealing with Latent Cause or Root Cause Analysis are dealing with one of the most potentially impactful exercises of life.  
Don’t squander it!

Learn More About Latent Cause Analysis

If you are keen to step out of the wilderness, we have built a checklist for you.  The following path has been developed to help individuals like you to get up to speed in becoming a champion, a fighter and a game changer.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Are you Clean or Dirty?

Are You Clean or Dirty?

I have recently been exposed to the concepts of “Just Culture” and “Clean Language.”  These two differing concepts have one thing in common.  They are both apparently nested within Failsafe’s Latent Cause Analysis process, and I didn’t even know it!
The way I had become exposed to these concepts were through people that had attended The Latent Cause Experience.  Two Anchorage, AK attendees approached me during a break saying:  “Do you know you’re embracing Just Culture?”  Two Houston, TX attendees did the same thing, this time asking:  “Do you know you are using Clean Language techniques?”  I’ll discuss more about “Clean Language” in this blog, and then “Just Culture” in a future blog.mistakes
One of the two Houston attendees was a woman named Sharon Small.  I had met Sharon a few months earlier at a Nuclear Power conference and invited her to The Latent Cause Experience.  Sharon has embraced concept of “Clean Language,” a concept pioneered by the late David Grove, and is developing a business around it.  
As Sharon went through the class, she became more and more convinced that Failsafe’s “Latent Cause Analysis” is “clean” -- very clean. I am greatly indebted to Sharon for taking the time to make some notes about the similarities between Clean Language and LCA.  I have shared many of Sharon’s comments in the following paragraphs.  As you read them, please ask yourself “do we have a clean or dirty investigative process?”  Even more, you might ask yourself “am I a clean or dirty person?”  
Sharon’s comments:
LCA is trying to be “clean” when you ask the questions “what is it about the way we are” and “what is it about the way I am ..” without telling them the answer.  LCA suggests that the group looks at themselves and makes a determination from the evidence and self knowledge.  LCA lets the stakeholders come to their own conclusions. 
Do you try to shove your own opinions down people’s throats, or do you try to help them come to their own evidence-based conclusions?
Your standard interview questions are “clean,” which is an attempt to ask questions of another human being with the intention to neither contaminate or distort their answers - open and non-leading.  A clean “purpose” is an intervention that does not contaminate the other persons experience through our own suggestions or interpretations.  This can be harder to do than people think.  
When you question people, do you try to get them to tell you what you want to hear, or are you more interested in what they have to tell you, even if you don’t like what they are saying?
Your LCA approach is “non-directive,” which is totally aligned with the “clean” concept.  That is, the facilitator issues no instructions at the level of content.  This is related to not using a pre-determined theory or list when going into an analysis, or, as you say “letting the evidence guide you wherever it wants!”  
Do you find yourself wondering “is it this, or this, or this” instead of simply allowing the evidence to take you anywhere it wants?
Your approach is also “non-suggestive” in that the facilitator makes no recommendation or content advice.  This is related to your sharing the evidence and letting the stakeholders self identify (take ownership) and decide on their own corrective actions.  Your approach is also “non-intrusive,” in that the facilitator does not dispute or challenge what the other person might say - this is related to your interview process and allowing the person to simply tell what they know and think. It also pertains to letting the stakeholders be their own expert on their “system” (business, group, needs) and make their own determinations.  
Are you willing to let another human being come to their own conclusions, even if you think they are wrong (they might NOT be wrong), or are you going to try to force them to think the same way you think?
Clean models are language-based in that the facilitator does not supply a reinterpretation of what is said.  Clean models use the persons (or groups) own words and descriptions.  Using exact terminology from the client vs paraphrasing is important. Words are used for a reason and each change will make a difference in understanding.  You stress this in your comments about representing people, especially in your comments about “key quotes,” where you say “use their exact words when representing them.”  Your use of flip charts is also “clean.”  You record everything on flip charts for all the stakeholders to see.  This is so important.  
Do you find yourself re-wording, or paraphrasing almost everything people say, or do you consciously try to use their words -- and even try to understand why they used the words they used?
The “clean concept” recognizes that people (or groups of people) are self organizing systems.  Behavior is, therefore, understandable.  Your Golden Rule of LCA stresses that we need to understand so so deeply, that it is hard to imagine doing anything differently than the person or process in question.  
Do you care why people do what they do, or are you more interested in blame?
The “clean concept” constitutes a radical change to our traditional and frequently manipulative habits.  Most other methods of cause analysis have a convincing element to do with their perceptions and determinations vs the people sorting it out for themselves.  “Clean” suggests that a “less is more” approach is better, but people have such a hard time with this.  I see this in therapists and coaches - it is very difficult for them to reduce what they are doing.  They always think that a new tool, trick or technique is just what’s needed and in a way deferring attention away from the clients own internal resources and capabilities. It is a subtle distinction that is difficult for many people to really understand until they have had the experience of it.  
Do you tend to look for the newest techniques, gimmicks, and fads to help you with your problems instead of realizing that "less is more?"  If so, you might want to look back at what you have done and ask yourself “have I made things worse instead of better with all this stuff?”

I have a feeling that I will be working with Sharon in the future.  I sense she has a lot to offer.  If you are interested in learning more about “Clean Language,” or in contacting Sharon Small, please click on the links.
Thank you, Sharon, for sharing your thoughts.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The River Reaches Places the Source Never Knows

The River Reaches Places the Source Never Knows, or A Focus on Individuals, not Corporations.

An interesting thing happened to me on June 1 of this year.  I hired my youngest daughter, Jessica, as a Failsafe employee.  She had just graduated from Virginia Tech as a Mechanical Engineer, and didn’t even interview with anyone else.  She wanted to work with Failsafe.  Before she made her final decision to work with me, I brought her to a few 4-day “Latent Cause Experience” classes.  It was during the second class that she started to wonder:

Why are all these companies hiring you to train their people when it seems few of these companies are actually doing all that you are suggesting?
I smiled internally, because I had to confront this issue about 5 years ago myself.  At the time, I was working with 5 Affiliates, all who were trying to help me drive Latent Cause Analysis(Failsafe's approach to Root Cause Analysis) throughout industry.  They had a common plea:

“Bob, you have to change some of this material because no one is actually doing what you are suggesting!  People are going through the class, and admittedly loving it, but then nothing happens afterwards.”

Nothing happens afterwards?

I really enjoy working with the guys and watching them get traction on this. The one thing that really makes me feel good is when I see them walk away from the class reviewing their whole approach to life.  It’s not just about work, it’s about the way that they can manage their life all the way around. They all seem to have this renewed sense of hope for the future and they leave wanting go out and make changes in their lives at work and at home.  It seems that most of them can’t wait to get home and start applying what they have learned.  It is always very rewarding to me to see these things happen and  it makes me feel like I/we have made a difference in their lives by giving them the opportunity to attend your class…..  Drilling Company VP.

I wish my children could have gone through this class with me……  HSE Advisor, Refining

I wish I would have experience this much earlier in my career.  It would have been better for myself and all the people that worked for me……  Operations Supervisor, Oil and Gas

We are using Failsafe and Latent Cause Analysis to help all our employees, from top to bottom, be more accountable to themselves.  It’s taken us from being a good performer (in terms of safety) to one of the best….. HSE VP, Contracting Company

Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, our attempts at changing cultures are misdirected.  We start out on our “wilderness journey,” thinking we know the path we will travel -- often with grandiose plans and intricate strategies.  We also have expectations of what we will see along the journey -- and they had better appear quickly or “something is wrong.”  I include myself in this description.  This is how I am.  

But is this how I/we ought to be?173737815

Are we to always “know” the outcome before we start the journey?  Isn’t there an “inner knowingness” that is available to all of us that sometimes urges us to “step-out,” no matter what the end result might be?   The river reaches places the source never knows.

Maybe we should be content to “do our part,” even if we don’t see visible and immediate results.
A man who played double-bass in the Mexico City Philharmonic told me that the finest instruments are made of wood that has been allowed to age naturally to remove the moisture.  “You must age the wood for 80 years then play the instrument for 80 years before it reaches its best sound,” said Luis Antonio Rojas.  A craftsman must use wood cut and aged by someone else, and will never see any instrument reach its peak during his own lifetime.  Many IMPORTANT things in life are “next generation matters” – teaching, training, parenting…  David McCasland (author).

Maybe, instead of trying the “change the world” all at once, we ought to be focused on changing individuals, one-at-a-time.

We need to change, but the change must indeed begin with a single individual.  It might be any one of us.  Nobody can afford to wait around and wait for someone else to do what he is loath to do himself…..  Carl Jung (famous psychoanalyst)

Everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to change themselves…..  Leo Tolstoy (Russian Philosopher)

Maybe, instead of seeing corporate or societal change as hopeless, we ought to embrace the thoughts of Tolkien (Hobbit Author):

Most people believe that only great power can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found.  I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.  Small acts of kindness and love.

To be honest, it no longer bothers me when an organization does not embrace all that we suggest in The Latent Cause Experience.  It’s not that I’ve given up on them -- it’s that I’ve learned to change my focus.  Whereas I used to be upset when things were not happening at my pace, or as I expected, I am now content  at the glimpses of change that I am seeing.  In other words, I’ve learned to focus on helping individual people, one at a time -- starting with me. Remember one of our bottom-line questions:

What is it about the way I am that contributes to the problems around me?

Individuals ask, and then answer this question -- not corporations.  Individuals can do this whether their corporations want them to or not!  If we instill the need to be introspective within individuals, the world that surrounds them will change in ways we cannot have foretold.  The river reaches places the source never knows.

Interested to Learn More?

If you need more materials to help you with your latent cause journey, I have tons of materialssprawled across the website available for your downloads.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Root Cause Analysis Journey: A Blessing and a Burden

It’s been quite a while since I’ve last written.  Quite frankly, I’ve simply been too busy.  A lot has been going on with Failsafe Network.  We have some bold new plans, are working with some stimulating new people, and we’re finally seeing some visible signs of progress.  
Maybe all worthwhile endeavors of life are like journeys into the wilderness.  We sense a need to go there, but we don’t know what we’ll find as we travel.  Dangers abound.  Rock slides, earthquakes, windstorms, snakes -- even bandits exist along the way to rob us of vital supplies.  Certainly, one of the things that any sane person must wonder as they encounter these dangers is “have I ventured into territory I ought not have ventured?”
It’s uncanny how life seems to provide answers to these fundamental questions if we’re willing to ask.

Last week, I met with the company I’ve been working with to help Failsafe through its journey.  Although I’ve been working with them since January, they brought in some new folks to help with some of the problems that had arisen and we needed to get to know one another.  As I was driving to the meeting -- a 2 hour drive -- I had some time to think about what I needed to convey.  I only had an hour or so to get across the essence of “who I am and what I feel compelled to do.”
I found myself telling them the following:

I consider myself blessed beyond all expectations.  

When I look back at my life and see how it played out, I can’t help but be in awe.  Not awe about myself -- that’s the point.  I had little or nothing to do with it.  If I told you my whole story you would understand:
It seems like I was put on a path.
I know that others feel the same about their lives -- not all others, but some.  Most of us would share the same experience.  I would never have been able to predict where this path was going 30 years ago.  But looking back, every step along the way, every choice I thought I was making has taken me where I am today.  I realize that I have already been on a journey into the wilderness, and here’s where its lead me so far:
I’ve learned a way to help people take what might be the single most important step in their lives:  to slow down, to acknowledge the truth of what they see around them, and then to realize there's something about them that needs to change.   
It might not be the first step, and it definitely will not be the final step.  But as far as I can tell, it's the vital one.  
I’ve learned this through dealing with things that have gone wrong, both in my own life and in other lives.  I’ve learned that unexpected, unplanned pain is not what we think.  It is the only thing that can change us in the profoundest of ways.  This pain comes as we travel through the wilderness as we veer off “the path.”  But there’s a caveat: these things that go wrong will not change us until we are willing to learn something about ourselves.  This is true for all of us, everywhere, no exceptions.  
As I write this article I am coming-up on my 67th birthday.  My body is beginning to ache, and I don’t like leaving my wife alone as I go out, week after week.  I can keep up this pace for a while, I suppose, but not too long.  With this in mind, when I was in the meeting with the new folks last week, I also remember saying:

But the Blessing is also a Burden

455179773Virtually no-one in the “root cause analysis” world has a message or underlying purpose that is even remotely similar to what I have been led to imbed within Failsafe.  As more and more people are exposed to our 4-day Latent Cause Experience, the word seems to be spreading -- interest is increasing.  VP’s want their people to go through this experience.  The hands-on folks want their VP’s to go through it.  I often hear “I wish my wife (son, mother-in-law, etc.) could have gone through this.”  “Have you considered offering this as a college class?”  “Is health care aware of this, or how about banking?”  “I wish you’d come to our church!”
So what should I do about all this interest, in the midst of the looming dangers in my wilderness journey?
Should I simply close shop, tell my clients I’m retiring, and forget about this blessing I seem to have been given?  
No.  I cannot simply stop.  Blessings come with burdens.  I think that’s always true.
My “burden” is to make sure that “the way I have learned to help others” will continue after my tenure ends.
Along these lines, the people that are helping me are pushing me to blog on a regular basis. Initially, I resisted this thought -- why write when I don’t have something to say?  But then I realized that the experience of working with others to take Failsafe to another level is loaded with applicable thoughts and lessons.  That’s what you’ll be reading on this blog.  It should be interesting.  
So if anything I have said even remotely interests you, I have three suggestions:
  • Look at Failsafe’s new website.  Let me know what you think.  It’s a work in progress, but I think you’ll like it.  

Thanks, and stay tuned.