10 Characteristics of an effective Cause Mapping facilitator

Sarah Wrenn

And how to identify early on

One of the elements to a successful RCA program is to build the skills of your employees. Identifying and developing RCA Champions who lead the facilitation of your incident investigations, drive consistency of the process, and provide support is key to sustain the effectiveness of your organization’s RCA program. Based on our experience training RCA Champions, we’ve identified these ten characteristics of an effective investigation lead facilitator.

 1. They like problem solving.

Managers often ask me, “how do I identify the people who should lead investigations?” That’s easy because leads usually identify themselves. People who like leading investigations, who are interested in facilitation and documenting problems tend to be the best at it. If someone completes their first investigation and didn’t enjoy it, they probably won’t be the most effective facilitator.

2. They are naturally inquisitive.

Leading an investigation requires asking a lot of questions to understand why and how a problem happened. Diving deeper into the finer details of a task or process allow the investigation team to provide a more thorough and complete explanation of the problem.

3. They are detail oriented.

Good troubleshooters and problem solvers focus on details. They are not satisfied with simple explanations and drive investigations to understand the specifics.

4. They work well with people.

Facilitators must work with everyone in an organization, from front-line personnel to the highest levels of management. The facilitator should maintain a good rapport with front-line workers to avoid the perception of blame and learn details from those closest to the work process. Investigations can be stressful and people may question an investigation’s conclusions, so a facilitator must be able to maintain a calm disposition in what can be a challenging situation.

5. They listen.

It seems obvious, but having excellent listening skills is critical to a facilitator’s success. It is easy to ask questions, but to hear and comprehend the responses can often be challenging. This is made even harder if the facilitator has pre-conceived ideas or think they already know the answer. A facilitator listens and writes everything down. Not only does this demonstrate that you are listening, but also validates to those providing the information that they are heard.

6. They strive to understand your organization’s work processes.

A facilitator who embraces an organization’s work process leverages the best means for solving problems. On the other hand, a facilitator, who says “our process if fine” ignores opportunities to improve. Organizations who disregard their processes are more likely to blame individuals and then identify generic solutions such as “don’t make that mistake” which is not an effective long term solution. When a facilitator seeks to understand how work is performed, they are better able to identify opportunities for improvement.

7. They are interested in utilizing the Excel drawing tools.

Excel is the best root cause analysis software available for documenting a complete investigation using the Cause Mapping Template. A facilitator’s ability to use this tool to collect, organize, and document the investigation will result in more efficient and faster investigations. Can you lead an effective investigation on paper with sticky notes? Absolutely! But organizations are increasingly looking for an electronic record of the investigation to capture in their databases and track patterns and trends. So even if you’re not familiar with Excel now, this is a skill to develop.

8. They are organized.

Investigations include statements, timelines, diagrams, photos, maps, procedures, logs, and more. Managing all of these aspects requires order and organization. When an investigation is complete anyone should be able to retell the story of what happened.

9. They have an open mind.

Facilitators don’t limit themselves to pre-conceived ideas on what caused a problem or that there is only one “root” cause. They are open to and seek out information. Facilitators who limit themselves to “the way we’ve always done it,” limit the organization’s ability to improve. Problem solving isn’t about confirming that we’ve done this the right way all along; it’s about identifying how we can improve.

10. They do not have to be a subject matter expert.

Your organization is filled with subject matter experts, but it is not filled with problem solving experts. A facilitator must seek out and engage with subject matter experts to learn details, but they do not have to be that expert. A facilitator who is not a subject matter expert can provide an outside perspective and often reveals causes that your experts may overlook.

If you or one of your employees has many of these skills, they are likely to be an effective lead facilitator. For more information on the skills necessary, check out ThinkReliability’s Cause Mapping Certified Facilitator Program.

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