Winston S. Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” At Accelerant Solutions, we are clearly optimists. Each and every day we seek to identify difficulties experienced by our customers, and we recognize the opportunity to assist them in overcoming those difficulties. It is CORE™ to what we do.
Our focus when serving a customer needs to be one of seeking out the opportunity to add value. We are routinely brought in to fix a difficulty and that we must do; however, we should also be looking for other opportunities to add value. We must enter into each customer interaction with our eyes wide open for the other difficulties our customers may be having. They may not even be aware of some of their issues, and it is incumbent upon us to help them see what they have not previously identified.
A case in point: Recently, Accelerant Solutions was brought in by a customer to assess procedure quality issues. The customer was acutely aware that their procedures were hampering their ability to implement projects efficiently and effectively. They requested that we assess their procedures for quality and technical accuracy. Additionally, they wanted to understand the depth and breadth of the issue. The customer suspected they had an issue but couldn’t quantify the problem.
At this point, Accelerant Solutions provided an assessor to review the company’s array of procedures. The assessment identified that procedure quality varied greatly. Most were inadequate because they provided minimal direction about how tasks were to be accomplished. The procedures consistently stated what needed to be done, but rarely stated how to accomplish the task. Human factoring for procedure users was virtually nonexistent. Additionally, very little useful guidance existed for the customer explaining how to write an effective procedure. The assessor provided recommendations on methods to upgrade the documents in scope.
Normally, this would be the end of the issue. After all, the customer asked for a review of the procedures and received recommendations to correct the issues. Yet, by keeping “eyes wide open,” other difficulties were identified that the customer was unaware existed. There lies the opportunity to provide the customer with added value.
The assessor reviewed corrective action data in order to establish that procedure quality issues were indeed a problem for the customer. The review of CAP data, as suspected, indicated that procedures were not followed, not accurate, and in some cases were nonexistent. A review of consequential events that promulgated causal analysis revealed that over 71% of the event analyses contained a condition, cause, or corrective action related to procedure adequacy or violation. This review helped to validate the depth and breadth of the customer’s problem; however, it also revealed something unknown. The causal analysis program was found to be problematic!
The procedure directing the conduct of causal analysis listed many of the common analysis tools that one would expect to find in the industry. Yet, a review of the causal analysis performed showed that only one technique, “The Five Whys,” was ever used. Further investigation revealed that procedural guidance practically forced the analyst to use this technique no matter what event was being investigated. While “The Five Whys” technique is a tool for cause investigation, it is not always the best tool to use, depending on the event. A review of the customer’s analysis reports indicated in some cases, that the true cause of an event may have been missed. This was a difficulty that the customer was unaware of and an opportunity for Accelerant Solutions to provide added value.
The final assessment report contained several recommendations that were outside of the original scope of procedure quality assessment. Beyond the issue with causal analysis, the recommendations included addressing other issues with qualifications and change management. By looking broader at the customer’s performance, we were able to identify difficulties that the customer was unaware of and thus provide them with the opportunity to correct the deficiencies. That is added value. That is being the optimist who sees opportunity in every difficulty.
About The Author
Tim Pilmaier is a consultant for Accelerant Solutions and the author of the award-winning novel, “Flight of the U-463”: Tim possesses 30+ years of commercial nuclear experience specializing in leadership and performance improvement.