Should a Procedure = Practice?

By Bob Latino

March 23, 2020

Reading Time: 2 minutes


Should a Procedure = Practice? 

I often ask my classes ‘If we follow our procedures to the letter, do nothing more and nothing less; would we optimize our system productivity, safety and reliability?’ The answer is NO.

If anyone on this forum has ever worked in a union environment in the manufacturing world, they will attest that doing this (follow the procedure only as written) is a common negotiating tactic when it comes time to vote for deciding whether to strike or not. Why is this to their advantage, why is it an effective tactic?

Because no procedure could possibly cover every eventuality that could occur in the course of doing the task. There has to be a degree of judgment permitted and expected in any procedure, as expressed below by Wayel and concurred by others.

The gray area becomes when too much leniency is given for the ‘judgment’ portion and unsafe practices result (workarounds that deteriorate into an unsafe zone – normalization of deviance). Policing our procedures for proper implementation and obsolescence is the continuous improvement challenge.

Awareness and education about this cycle is a key to identifying when our systems are becoming deficient and eventually will be detrimental to accomplishing their purpose. A high reliability organization (HRO) would recognize this deterioration of standards and take proactive actions to implement systems to review and update our procedures and on periodic basis.

We all know that many of our procedures are written for legal purposes. We ensure that we have specific procedures in place to pass our audits and maintain compliance.

However, how confident are we that the end users of the procedures possess the knowledge and skill to apply them effectively?

How confident are we that the procedures in place are appropriate for the service they are in?

Do we adequately update our procedures for the inclusion of new technologies?

Do we ensure that the end users demonstrate the appropriate skill to apply the procedure (as opposed to just knowledge/in service)?

About the Author
Robert (Bob) J. Latino is former CEO of Reliability Center, Inc. a company that helps teams and companies do RCAs with excellence.  Bob has been facilitating RCA and FMEA analyses with his clientele around the world for over 35 years and has taught over 10,000 students in the PROACT® methodology.

Bob is co-author of numerous articles and has led seminars and workshops on FMEA, Opportunity Analysis and RCA, as well as co-designer of the award winning PROACT® Investigation Management Software solution.  He has authored or co-authored six (6) books related to RCA and Reliability in both manufacturing and in healthcare and is a frequent speaker on the topic at domestic and international trade conferences.

Bob has applied the PROACT® methodology to a diverse set of problems and industries, including a published paper in the field of Counter Terrorism entitled, “The Application of PROACT® RCA to Terrorism/Counter Terrorism Related Events.”

Follow Bob on LinkedIn!

Root Cause Analysis Software

Our RCA software mobilizes your team to complete standardized RCA’s while giving you the enterprise-wide data you need to increase asset performance and keep your team safe.

Get Free Team Trial

Root Cause Analysis Training

Your team needs a common methodology and plan to execute effective RCA's. With both in-person and on-demand options, our expert trainers will align and equip your team to complete RCA's better and faster.
View RCA Courses

Reliability's root cause analysis training and RCA software can quickly help your team capture ROI, increase asset uptime, and ensure safety.
Contact us for more information: