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.