I never saw that coming!

Being proactive takes some practice. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone. In the comic above, Joe is sheepishly requesting a new part for his Jeep that is obviously in bad shape. We can gather from the limerick that Joe ignored the temperature gauge and his JeepĀ overheated. Maybe this wasn’t even the first time this happened and Joe had been hesitant to do anything about the high temperature readings. Why do we do things like that?

One reason could be “the ostrich effect”. George Lowenstein originally coined this phrase to describe situations where knowing something bad has happened is much more painful than suspecting that something bad might have happened. In other words, when things seem too rare or badĀ to actually occur, we ignore them and hope that they never do. This is a potentially dangerous situation when the consequence is high. What if Joe’s jeep was in the middle of combat? What if it was carrying supplies to the front line?

We all probably can think of situations where we have witnessed this type of behavior. In maintenance and reliability, one example might be when we don’t take actions based on negative Predictive Maintenance results. The oil analysis gives an indication that abnormal levels of contaminants were detected. Do you immediately create a work order to do get to the root cause?

Another interesting point of the cartoon above is the statement that a good soldier “digs out the cause and he acts”. When I facilitate courses on Root Cause Analysis, one of the main points that I try to get across is that all the good effort of a properly conducted Root Cause Analysis will be wasted if no corrective actions are taken. That’s where the rubber hits the road. Investigating and diagnosing a recurring problem can be fun and certainly will garner attention from your boss when you report and document the root cause(s) of a particularly damning issue. But if you stop and move on after the applause dies down, you will miss the opportunity to provide tangible increases to the value stream.

Next time you are presented with some bad or unpopular information, don’t be afraid to accept and acknowledge the fact. But instead of sticking your head in the ground and pretending that it didn’t happen, roll up your sleeves, dig into the issues, find the root causes, document your solutions and go about making the changes necessary to ensure the problems never occur again. After all, someone has to.

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