Not Following the Procedure – Root Cause Analysis

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Did you recently complete a root cause analysis for a corrective action, and as a result you find the root cause as the "procedure not followed"?

What was your recommendation? Was it to train the employee?

Why employees do not follow procedures?

Procedures are important because they ensure safety and efficiency. They also provide a framework for accountability. Without them, things can go wrong very easily.

But sometimes, even though procedures exist, people don't follow them. This can cause problems.This article will look at some common reasons why people ignore procedures and how to fix them.

Let's look at the 10 reasons employees do not follow procedures.

1. It's too hard.

People think following procedures is difficult or time consuming. They might believe it will take longer than it really does. Or they might feel overwhelmed by the amount of work involved.

2. There are too many steps.

Sometimes, procedures seem complicated. Even though they're written in plain English, people find it hard to understand all of the details.

3. The procedure doesn't make sense.

It's easy to assume that every step makes perfect sense. However, this isn't always true. Sometimes, there are gaps in logic where you need to fill in the blanks.

4. It was done before.

If an organization has already used a similar process before, then it's possible that people know what should happen next. And since they've seen it before, they tend to skip over a few steps.

5. No one told me about it.

Many organizations have procedures that aren't shared with everyone. Employees might feel like no one ever explained these processes to them.

6. Other people aren't doing it.

You might notice that someone else around the office is doing something different from the way procedures describe it. If other people around you are not following procedures, you might conclude that it's safe to skip those steps too.

7. We haven't had any problems yet.

This is probably the most common reason why people don't follow procedures. They're confident that everything will turn out fine. So, they figure, "Why bother?" So people often decide that it's okay to deviate from the procedures.

8. I'm busy right now.

Most people simply choose not to follow procedures when they're busy. They'd rather do something else instead. This usually means ignoring the situation until it becomes urgent.

9. It doesn't apply to us.

Some employees believe that their specific rule or procedure doesn't apply to this particular situation. For example, this project is too small to follow all these set of procedures.

Some procedures are very specific and cover situations that rarely occur. You might feel uncertain whether the procedure applies to your situation. So you leave it up to chance.

10. It's not worth the hassle.

The last reason people don't follow procedures is simply laziness. It's easier to let other people handle it instead of jumping through hoops.


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  • How can I get employees to follow procedures?

    Now you have a better understanding of why people don't follow rules. Let's take a closer look at how to fix the problem.

    1. Make sure the instructions are simple and clear

    People prefer simple, straightforward instructions that are easy to understand. Draw sketches on paper or create images online to clarify instructions. Avoid jargon or complex language.

    2. Use visual aids

    Provide pictures, pictures, and more pictures! Visuals also work great for explaining concepts. Take advantage of the digital age by creating videos, infographics, and interactive software. These options allow people to learn without having to read text.

    3. Be consistent

    When presenting new procedures, make sure employees know exactly which ones apply. Also, avoid using different procedures for the same job. Using inconsistent procedures creates confusion and causes issues down the road. Multiple procedures for a task with conflicting statements is a disaster.

    4. Tell employees exactly what to do and what not to do

    Include directions and guidelines in your procedures so that everyone knows what to do. Don't expect people to figure it out themselves. If necessary, draw diagrams or create flow charts to show employees where each step leads.

     5. Assign responsibilities for each action

    When assigning responsibility, make sure people know who'll be responsible for what. The procedure should clearly state what action will be taken and by whom. Which of these two options would you use in your procedure?

    a) Project readiness checklist shall be prepared at the start of the project?

    b) Within 30 days of the kick off meeting the assigned Project Engineer will prepare the project readiness checklist, and will get it approved from the Project Manager.

    6. Encourage self-discipline

    Encouraging self-discipline is an important part of ensuring procedures are followed. Employees should know that their performance will be reviewed based on how well they adhere to the established procedures. This can encourage better behavior on behalf of employees.

     7. Provide training

    If possible, give employees special training on any procedural requirements. This ensures they're familiar with the process. Training is especially important for new hires, freelancers, contractors, etc.

    8. Review procedures periodically

    Procedures change over time. Periodically reassess existing processes to determine whether changes are needed. You might add/remove steps for a new requirement, incorporate a new technology, or eliminate a redundant step. Have periodic meetings with team members to discuss changes and new developments.



    Procedure not followed is a common issue that organizations face. It's easy to blame individuals for performing poorly, but if proper procedures aren't implemented, the whole organization suffers. To solve this problem, focus on making sure procedures are properly written and provided to employees. By doing so, you increase compliance and reduce errors and mistakes.

    We have a separate post on the root cause analysis and human error. You might want to look at that as well.

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