Cause Mapping Course Allows Staff to Map Safer Solutions

Story Number: NNS200319-04Release Date: 3/19/2020 11:40:00 AM
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By Leslie Tomaino, Naval Safety Center Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The Naval Safety and Environmental Training Center and Naval Safety Center (NAVSAFECEN) Mishap Investigations Team cohosted a Cause Mapping course March 3-5. Cause Mapping is a systems approach to cause analysis to provide a visualization of cause and effect relationships.

The course allowed participants to find solutions by breaking various problems into their causes to identify different solutions. Breaking processes into its steps helps to identify where solutions apply, clearly document and communicate problems and processes.

“This course and its methodology provide a consistent approach to investigating and preventing a wide array of problems,” said Cmdr. Scott Morrill, Deputy Director of Mishap Investigations.

A turf weed analogy can best explain root cause analysis for problem solving. If you do not get to the root, the weed grows back. Root cause analysis digs into the details beneath the surface to provide a thorough explanation and to find better solutions. A comprehensive examination is critical to revealing more opportunities to prevent occurrence. Root-cause analysis reveals multiple causes that contribute to a problem, which can lead to the identification of various ways to mitigate the risk.

Course participants came from various backgrounds with different roles at NAVSAFECEN. As a center of excellence for modern data analytics, all personnel are encouraged to be diligent data stewards and to seek process improvement at all levels.

“As an investigator, I rely on cause mapping as a tool to help visually depict each mishap I investigate,” said Capt. Greg Giunta, USMC, a ground mishap investigator assigned to the NAVSAFECEN.  “This course helped to confirm my approach, as well as bridge the gap for the rest of the safety center, so each code has a better understanding of the analysis that is being conducted.”

The course focused on the investigative process, procedures and the problem-solving cycle. The first two days centered on the principles of collecting and analyzing data, with the third culminating in how to apply these skills through cause mapping.

A cause map diagram visually captures and communicates the details of an issue, just as a map captures and describes the details of a location’s terrain. This visual dialogue makes it easier to share insight and synergize the combination of a group’s knowledge.

“The skills and tools I have learned will directly affect how I cause map in the future. There was a period of instruction dedicated to “facilitating” the cause map process for a board,” said Giunta. “The facilitation process will be useful when I advise Safety Investigation Boards, and I can use this approach to help explain the process.”

Participants learned to use a solutions comparison matrix, a helpful tool for evaluating possible solutions. This qualitative cost-benefit analysis tool helps to assess solutions relative to each other and to evaluate alternative solutions.

“Too often most people look at finding a quick solution to a problem; cause mapping showed us how to break things down further,” said Aviation Electronics Technician Senior Chief William Crawford, an avionics analyst at NAVSAFECEN. “It is important for us and individuals in the fleet to learn to identify the good outcomes, as well, so we can reproduce those results.”

Critical to developing a prevention culture is identifying every single step performed within a company. High-reliability organizations engage people in the problem-solving process by focusing on fixes within the work process.

“I think a lot of people in the fleet would benefit from this cause mapping course and a more analytical problem-identification and solving approach,” said Crawford. “The more you do cause mapping or any process improvement, the more it eventually becomes an accepted norm. We can all help mitigate unnecessary risks and implement safer solutions.”


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