By Linda Lane
A new book by a local author is hitting the shelves. It’s William (Bill) Christiansen’s The Perfect Calm, The Titanic Disaster: A Case Study in Root Cause Analysis.
Intended to entertain but ultimately to educate, Christiansen uses the story of the magnificent British luxury liner, the Titanic, and the disaster surrounding its fateful maiden voyage to illustrate the concepts used in “Root Cause Analysis.” This process outlines all the issues impacting an unintended accident or incident, and allows the issues to be identified, investigated and debated in an attempt to avoid them in the future.
Christiansen taught classes for Pfizer on root cause analysis (RCA) and used the Titanic as his primary example of a series of events which led to the ultimate demise of the ship. Over the years many people in his classes told him how interesting and fun the class was, and encouraged him to write a book about it. His wife, Deb Christiansen, also encouraged him and helped him self-publish the book this spring.
“Implementing a root cause analysis depends on what problem you’re trying to solve,” said Bill. “For example, is the question ‘Why did the Titanic hit the iceberg? Why did it sink? Or perhaps even why people died?’” The root cause for each question would clearly be different for each question, thereby requiring a different approach of investigation determined by the question.
Where is root cause analysis frequently used? By companies, manufacturers or government officials trying to identify the underlying causes of a problem or incident which occurred. One recent example of RCA use is why salmonella occurred in Chipotle or Subway restaurants.
Christiansen retired from Pfizer in 2013, but continues his professional career providing classes in root cause analysis to various companies, as well as teaching classes for seniors with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Western Michigan University. The Root Cause Analysis classes will incorporate a workbook that the Christiansens have also published called “Titanic: the Tip of the Iceberg”.