Monday, December 19, 2016

A Truth Demonstrated by the Domino Analogy

I'd like to discuss one of my favorite analogies – the DOMINO analogy.  Actually, this is MORE than just an analogy.  Analogies are, after all, a COMPARISON between two things to help explain or clarify a thought.  But dominos are MORE than an analogy, or comparison.  They are the ACTUAL THING ITSELF.  Let me explain.

Obviously, if line up all the dominos in a row and then push on the one on the right, EVENTUALLY the one on the left will fall down.  This is “cause and effect” in its most elementary and visible form – and it demonstrates a very important truth.

The interaction between the finger and the domino happened FIRST.  And then the interaction between the rightmost domino and the one next to it happened second, and so on, and so on, until the last domino (on the left) EVENTUALLY falls down.  

Nothing extraordinary here, right?  Well hang in there and I’ll make my point.

In the “Root Cause Analysis” world, we always start with the LAST domino – the one on the left.  It’s the event we’re investigating.  Initially, we cannot SEE the dominos on the right, but we know they are there.  Investigations uncover them, one at a time, discovering the important cause and effect relationships.

But here’s the point I’d like to make.

As the cloak is pulled back, and we reveal more and more dominos, we’re actually GOING BACK IN TIME.  Remember, the domino on the RIGHT has to fall BEFORE the dominos on the LEFT fall down.  The cause of the cause of the cause of the cause relationships reveal that NOTHING HAPPENS in our lives without causes that originated in the past.  This is ALWAYS TRUE.

Let’s say I did something that caused a major problem, and you want to know why I behaved in that manner.  Do you think you’d be able to trace some of the causes of my behavior back to my parents?  Probably.  So let’s go to my parents.  Why did they raise me the way they raised me?  Do you think you’d be able to trace some of the causes of THEIR behavior back to THEIR parents?  SURE!

The dominos are interesting because they suggest that that we (as humans) might not be responsible for ANYTHING that has happened in the PRESENT. 

Everything that happens today was really caused by people that came before us.

Now, of course, there’s a LOT MORE TO THINGS THAT GO WRONG than that.  We ARE a lot more responsible than it seems.  And I’ll certainly be talking about them in future blogs.
For now, please realize that...

..whatever you do today, and how ever you are at present is affecting the future in ways you cannot even remotely conceive.

Isn’t all this fascinating?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Thoughts About September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001 was obviously a day that most of the world will never forget.

I grew up in New Jersey and spent a lot of time in NYC.  My father worked there.  My brother still works there.  I’ve eaten with my family on top of the world trade center in the Windows of the World restaurant.

On September 11, 2001, however, I had already moved into our mountain house in Virginia.  When I heard what was happening in my beloved city, I was glued to the TV like almost everything else.

My initial horror turned into relief as I heard that the NYC fire department was at the scene.  I thought everything would be okay – after all, they’re the best in the world at what they do.
Then the unthinkable happened.  The first tower collapsed.  And then the second.

How can any human being witness what unfolded that day without something profound occurring within them?  

At least, that was my initial emotional response.

But then an email made me realize the status of our society.  I received the noted email 30 minutes after the 2nd tower collapsed, and it  shook me to my core.  I’ll read what it said:

“Do not let terrorism, which is designed to create fear and stop production, halt your life or work.  Stay focused and do not stop what you’re doing.  May God help us all and the decisions we must make.”

I remember thinking “I’m supposed to stay focused?  On What?  I’m not supposed to "stop production?"  I’m simply supposed to keep working and not let this bother me?  I’m not supposed to grieve, wonder, pray – I’m supposed to simply keep doing I’m doing?  What kinds of calloused people have we become? 

What level of event will it take to get us to stop and listen and learn?  

Please try to relate this to where you work, where you live, and even your families.  And please try to consider this:

Failure is the only phenomena of life capable of getting our attention when we’re too busy doing something else.  Nothing else is able to tear us away from the grasp of our own objectives, desires, and goals to force us to look at what we’d rather not look at.

Do you know what “failure” is?  Do you treat it as an ugly, nasty inconvenience?  If so, I’m afraid you are on the road to 911 experiences in your lives.  Because if we don’t learn from the smaller failures of life, those smaller failures are going to turn into larger ones.  Larger and larger and larger until we eventually listen.  Eventually, we’ll all learn what we need to learn.  The only choice we have, it seems, is when.

Let’s learn from the small problems in our lives so we don’t have to experience the catastrophic ones.

Failure is not what we think it is.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Pickle Juice Analogy

A few years ago I was working with an affiliate whose name was Rob Statham (  Rob is a master at creating analogies.  My favorite of his is one about pickle juice.

He said something like:

People are like cucumbers who have been immersed in pickle juice.  No matter where a person lives, no matter what that person does, s/he is being influenced by the pickle juice.  It’s not their “fault,” in fact they have no choice.  It’s there and they are immersed in it.

It’s interesting what happens when something goes wrong.  We find the former cucumber, pull it out of the pickle juice, and then complain that the cucumber has turned into a pickle.  How dare you are a pickle!  We hired a cucumber.  You’re fired!

Most distressingly, what most companies do is look for a new cucumber to insert into that same pickle juice. 


The pickle juice is, of course, the culture – a way of life of a group of people – the attitudes, beliefs, values, and assumptions that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed on by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.

When things go wrong, let’s focus more on the pickle juice and less on the cucumbers.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

First Video-Blog: Root Cause Analysis for Culture Change

Welcome to my FIRST Video-Blog (VBLOG)!

I will be doing my best to produce one of these VBLOGS per week.  I'll do my best to keep each one about 3 to 4 minutes in duration.  You can either look at the video, or simply read the text in this blog article.

Please let me know what you think!

Some say that culture has nothing to do with things that go wrong.  We say that is has everything to do with it.  The way we are is the cause of all that goes right and all that goes wrong.

Hello this is Bob Nelms and I’d like to talk a minute or two about culture.

Culture:  a way of life of a group of people – the attitudes, beliefs, values, and assumptions that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed on by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.

I wonder if we can trace the causes of any and even all of our problems back to culture?

That’s the same thing as wondering if we can trace the causes of any and all of our problems back to our attitudes, beliefs and assumptions.

Let me ask you this. 

What if part of the causes of the image you’re seeing was a faulty high level alarm on vessel?  What if people know about that faulty high-level alarm, but didn’t do anything about it? 

I wonder why they didn’t do anything about it?  Do you think we could trace the reasons why back to their attitudes, beliefs, values, and assumptions?

If so, that’s culture.

As a person who’s been dealing with things that go wrong since 1974, I can categorically tell you that CULTURE is responsible for all that goes right and all that goes wrong. 

But I wouldn’t want to leave this discussion without pointing out something else.
Culture is people!

You can’t talk about culture without talking about people.

Everything that goes right and everything that goes wrong can be traced back to people – their attitudes, beliefs and assumptions.

Use yourself as a test-bed and you’ll see what I mean!

When something goes wrong in your life, ask yourself “what is it about my attitudes, beliefs, or assumptions” that contributed to this event? 

I don’t know about you, but I can ALWAYS find something about myself that contributes to my problems – ALWAYS.  Even more, I can ALWAYS seem to acknowledge that it’s something about the WAY I AM that is a bit problematic. 

The point is that together with everyone else around me, the way we ARE is CULTURE.

We are in the Root Cause Analysis business, which means we are in the Culture-Change business, because if CULTURE doesn’t change, nothing else will change.

See you next week.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Why Do Problems Exist, Part 3

Why Do Problems Exist -- Conclusions

Part 3 of a 3 part series exploring philosophical and religious thought about why problems exist.

In the first article of this series, I explored what the great Western thinkers have written about "the causes of things in general."  In the second article, I explored what these thinkers have said about "things that go wrong, in particular." 

In reviewing those last two articles, I became frustrated with myself for what I had written.  It seems I was in a questioning mood, and wondered aloud about much of what I had read from these great scholars.

Therefore, in this final article I will 
not be wondering anymore.  I will combine the results of the first two articles to draw my own conclusions about the problems of life.  You, the reader, might come to different conclusions.

The causes of everything we sense, including all of life's phenomena, can be broken into the following categories:

Intent manPurpose:  There is a purpose to everything we can see.  This is most obvious in our human creations, where we can consider a desk, for example, and know that its creator had a purpose in mind.  But I have concluded that all of nature also has a purpose.  There's a purpose for ourselves, trees, the air we breath, the bacteria and other microbes that float around and all that we have not even discovered.  There's also a purpose for the pain we feel when things go wrong in our lives.  All of life has purpose.  There is no exception.

Substance:  There is a substance involved in all we can see.  Without substance, nothing would exist.  A desk, for example, might be made of wood -- perhaps an oak tree.  When we consider why something exists, we have to acknowledge that its substance is part of its causes.  But again, the same is true of all of nature.  We, as humans, are made-up of substances, as are the trees, the air, and even bacteria and other microbes.  Even the pain we feel when things go wrong in our lives has a substantive element.  Chemicals are produced within our bodies that are deciphered by our brains as pain.

just a lil flat 2Pattern:  There is a plan, or template used in all that we can see.  This plan is not the same as "purpose."  The purpose of a desk might be to provide a work surface for writing.  The plan for creating the desk would be the templates used in cutting the wood to make the desk.  Without this pattern (plan), the desk would not exist.  The same is true for ourselves, as well as the trees we can see, as well as the air, bacteria and other microbes -- none of these things would exist if it were not for the "pattern" used to create these things.  This means that there is also a "plan" that exists for how emotional pain comes into our lives.  There is always a plan.  There are no exceptions.

Energy:  There is a source of energy that exists behind all we can see.  Energy was needed to create the desk from an oak tree, according to a plan, and suited for a purpose.  The same is true for ourselves, as well as trees, bacteria, and all that exists.  Nothing would exist the exertion of energy.  Even the pain in our lives does not come free.  The pain comes from the exertion of energy on a substance according to plan with a specific purpose.

I don't know about you, but I am awed at these conclusions.  Everything in existence has meaning!  All of life's phenomena have purpose.  

Nothing happens, anywhere, to anything or anyone without a predefined purpose and plan!