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A Practical Guide to Fear-Free Root Cause Analysis

Frank Blecha
Frank Blecha
1 min read
A Practical Guide to Fear-Free Root Cause Analysis

Table of Contents

“Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.” - James Lane Allen.

It is essential to have a free Root Cause Analysis (RCA). If you have a culture of fear, people either lie, obscure information or don’t offer information up if they’re unsure. You can’t have 100% certainty, especially in the early part of an incident; you have to work with the best information available. If you have folks not doing anything out of fear, you lose access to the best information available.

So how do you do that?


  • Screaming
  • Blaming
  • You might call out who made a decision, but you need to go after the facts and timelines, not go after the person.
  • Talking over each other.
  • Constantly interrupting each other.
  • Overpaging people to join the incident.
  • Jumping your escalation tree and going straight to the “highest” leader in the area with responsibility.


  • Identifying by role, not name.
  • Accuracy on the event timeline.
  • Working on the issue, not blaming the person.
  • Follow up, don’t file it away, and never reference it.
  • An incident manager quarterbacking the incident.
  • Create breakout rooms that have a small number of focused participants.
  • Following your on-call process and escalation paths.

It’s entirely possible that someone is to blame. They pushed the wrong button, approved the wrong thing, and didn’t validate something before it was given to a client. Even then, do the right behaviors in public and then dig into if this is a performance problem. People make mistakes, some of which can be tolerated, some of which cannot. But don’t sacrifice your future culture by doing public blaming.

How you handle these times of stress will show people who you are as a leader and what type of team and culture you lead.