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The Difference Between Hitting a Shot in the Dark and Hitting a Bull's Eye

When a complex problem puts safety or customers at risk—when time is running out or costs are mounting—root cause analysis must be accurate and fast. So we asked a group of expert troubleshooters from several nuclear and fossil power generators to identify those actions that improve the speed and accuracy of root cause analysis.

  1. Think First, Act Later. When a series of generator incidents occurred, there was pressure to shut down the reactor at a cost of $250,000 a day. The team opted to specify the problem and look for significant changes. They identified a probable cause, tested it against the problem specification and got the generator back online without incident.

  2. Resolve One Problem At A Time. Often, a system can remain operational even if there are several ongoing problems within it. Then along comes a problem that disables the entire system. Under time pressure, the goal isn’t to solve all of these problems. It’s to identify and solve the one that caused the system to fail.

  3. Use One Process. When the stakes are high, emotions—and adrenaline—run high. When a team first assembles, ideas, especially about cause, are thrown up, shot down and sometimes brought up again. Without a shared systematic process for tackling problems, the team can go in circles indefinitely, wasting time and money while struggling to get a handle on the situation.

While their experience is specific to their industry, the best practices of effective troubleshooting are shared whenever the stakes are high. Continue reading...

  • Find the cause of challenging problems using a fact-driven approach

  • Identify and plan for the resolution of high-priority issues

  • Make complex decisions aligned with strategic and operational priorities

  • Understand and manage risks proactively while executing strategic initiatives effectively

  • Promote and maximize the benefits of future opportunities


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