Maintaining Independence as an Apollo RCA Facilitator

Apollo Root Cause Analysis (ARCA) is a revolutionary incident investigation methodology, empowering users to work collaboratively to discover the root cause of a problem – and devise an effective solution.

Assembling a diverse and cross-functional team is crucial. The facilitator’s role in the Apollo RCA process is equally as critical. The facilitator serves as the guide, ensuring that the incident investigation remains on course and unbiased. To achieve this, independence is paramount.



The Facilitator’s Role in Apollo Root Cause Analysis

The facilitator of an Apollo RCA session is not simply an observer of the process; they are the orchestrator of the ARCA process.

Their role pivotal in achieving an effective solution. As neutral mediators, facilitators guide the RCA process, ensuring objectivity and clarity. They use their expertise in the Apollo RCA methodology to help teams navigate complicated issues, separating symptoms from causes.

A vital part of their role is to ensure unbiased results, helping organisations identify true root causes and implement effective solutions. Essentially, their role transforms reactive problem-solving into proactive prevention, turning challenges into opportunities for improvement.

Other responsibilities of an Apollo RCA facilitator include:

Structuring the RCA Session: Facilitators define the scope of the ARCA session. They do this by setting objectives and establishing a timeline for the analysis.

Guiding the Discussion: During the session, the facilitator guides the team discussion, encouraging participants to share their observations and insights into the problem at hand – ensuring each team member feels like they can share their account and thoughts. The facilitator ensures that the Apollo RCA process remains focused on uncovering root causes and effective solutions.

Managing Conflicts: Facilitators are skilled in conflict resolution. They address disagreements or conflicts that may arise during the analysis and maintain a positive and constructive atmosphere within the group.

Documenting Findings: The facilitator documents the findings, discussions, and decisions made during the ARCA session. These records serve as the basis for further analysis, planning actions that come out of the facilitation session and can be shared to stakeholders within the organisation.


The 6 Challenges of Facilitating Apollo RCA Sessions

Effective facilitation in Apollo Root Cause Analysis required a delicate balance between guiding the process and maintaining independence. One of the greatest challenges faced by facilitators in ARCA sessions is the risk of becoming too invested in the conversation. While passion and dedication are highly effective professional traits, these factors can inadvertently cloud objectivity.

Understanding these challenges and having strategies to overcome them is essential for the integrity of the Apollo RCA process.



1. Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, and remember information that confirms one’s preconceived beliefs or hypotheses. In Apollo RCA, facilitators may fall into the trap of seeking evidence that aligns with their initial assumptions, potentially overlooking critical insights.

Avoidance Strategies:

  • Actively challenge your own assumptions and hypotheses
  • Encourage team members to present alternative viewpoints and contradictory evidence
  • Foster an environment where dissent is valued, and conflicting perspectives are explored
  • Take regular breaks during facilitation sessions to pause and reflect on your emotions and bias. Use this as a time to self-regulate and remain neutral


In a chemical plant experiencing recurrent equipment failures, the facilitator initially suspected a specific component as the root cause. However, a technician’s differing opinion led to a more thorough analysis, revealing a different root cause related to maintenance practices.



2. Defensiveness

Facilitators may become emotionally invested in a particular theory or perspective, leading to defensiveness when challenged by team members. This defensiveness can stifle open discussion and hinder the exploration of alternative root causes.

Avoidance Strategies:

  • Maintain a mindset of curiosity rather than advocacy
  • Remind yourself and the team that the goal is to uncover the truth, not to defend a particular viewpoint
  • Encourage constructive criticism and diverse perspectives


During an ARCA session in an IT department, the facilitator, a senior manager, found their initial proposal challenged by junior team members. Rather than becoming defensive, they fostered an open and respectful environment and encouraged a deeper exploration of alternative root causes, leading to a more comprehensive analysis.



3. Solution-Oriented Thinking

Apollo RCA is primarily about identifying root causes, not immediately seeking solutions. Facilitators may be tempted to jump to solutions prematurely, bypassing the depth of analysis required to uncover the underlying issues.

Avoidance Strategies:

  • Set clear expectations at the beginning of the session that the focus is on root cause identification
  • Emphasise that solutions will be addressed in a subsequent phase of the analysis
  • Redirect discussions back to the analysis of causes whenever the team drifts toward solutions prematurely


In a healthcare setting dealing with patient safety incidents, the facilitator resisted the temptation to propose immediate solutions. Instead, they focused on uncovering root causes. This approach allowed the team to identify systemic issues, prioritise practice changes, and develop more effective long-term solutions.



4. Ignoring Dissent

Facilitators may inadvertently discourage differing opinions or alternative viewpoints, especially if they have a strong personality or position of authority within the organisation. This can also happen if they have a particularly strong view on the situation. As a result, the richness of the analysis can be limited, and the facilitator inadvertently leads the group towards confirmation bias.

Avoidance Strategies:

  • Actively encourage team members to voice dissenting opinions and present alternative hypotheses
  • Create a safe space where all team members feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, regardless of hierarchy or status
  • Consider having a facilitator that is independent of the failure/issue at hand


In an automotive manufacturing plant, a maintenance technician expressed their disagreement about the perceived root cause of frequent machine breakdowns. The facilitator actively encouraged the technician to present their perspective, leading to a re-evaluation of the analysis, and the discovery of a previously overlooked root cause.



5. Rushed Conclusions

In the eagerness to reach conclusions and wrap up the Apollo RCA session, facilitators may rush the analysis process. This can result in incomplete or superficial root cause identification, as not all factors have been appropriately considered.

Avoidance Strategies:

  • Set a clear timeline and agenda for the ARCA session from the beginning
  • Stick to the established process and ensure that each aspect of the analysis is thoroughly explored before moving on
  • Prioritise quality of the analysis over speed
  • Ensure Apollo RCA sessions are scheduled in sessions, and allow for more time than necessary to complete the analysis


In a financial institution grappling with cybersecurity breaches, the facilitator established a structured agenda and timeline for the Apollo RCA session. Despite pressure to conclude quickly, the team adhered to the process, leading to a comprehensive analysis, strengthened security measures, and effectively prevented recurrence.



6. Overlooking Unconventional Sources

Facilitators may unintentionally overlook insights from unconventional sources, such as individuals in roles that aren’t traditionally involved in the RCA process, or those with limited technical expertise. These sources may hold valuable observations that could be pivotal in identifying root causes. Examples of unconventional sources may include janitorial and security staff. 

Avoidance Strategies:

  • Actively seek input from a wide range of team members, regardless of their roles or expertise levels
  • Prioritise participation from those who actively experienced the event or witnessed the failure
  • Encourage everyone to share their observations and insights
  • Consider every piece of information as potentially valuable


In a retail company dealing with inventory discrepancies, the facilitator actively sought input from store clerks and warehouse staff. Their insights, though unconventional to include in a strategic session like this, were instrumental in uncovering a root cause related to inventory management practices.


Other Strategies for Maintaining Independence While Facilitating Apollo RCA

To ensure independence and objectivity, facilitators of the Apollo methodology can also employ the following strategies:

Preparation: Facilitators should thoroughly prepare for ARCA sessions, familiarising themselves with both the participants in the group, and more importantly, the incident or problem. However, it is imperative that they remain open to diverse explanations.


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Balanced Inquiry: When probing participants for information, facilitators should ask open-ended questions and remain neutral in their language and tone. It is imperative that they do not asking leading questions.

Peer Review: A facilitator should routinely engage in peer review or oversight, by having another experienced facilitator or subject matter expert observe the session and provide feedback.


The Facilitator’s Balancing Act

As we’ve seen, the role of the facilitator in ARCA is delicate; they are carefully balancing between guidance and independence. They orchestrate the analysis, ensuring that all voices are heard, biases are mitigated, and root causes are revealed. To succeed in this role, facilitators must:

  • Embrace Objectivity: Remain impartial and open-minded throughout the Apollo RCA process. Actively challenge biases and preconceived notions.
  • Foster Collaboration: Create an environment where diverse perspectives are valued, and team members are encouraged to share their observations and insights
  • Navigate Challenges: Recognize and avoid common pitfalls such as confirmation bias, defensiveness, and rushed conclusions. Prioritise the quality and thoroughness of analysis.
  • Value Unconventional Insights: Actively seek input from individuals in non-traditional roles or with limited technical expertise. Every piece of information can be a critical clue in uncovering root causes.



The Journey of Continuous Improvement

The role of the ARCA facilitator is not static; it is a journey of continuous improvement. Facilitators must actively seek opportunities for growth and refinement. This journey includes:

Regular Self Reflection: Reflect on your own facilitation practices and biases. Identify areas for improvement and commit to ongoing self-awareness.

Peer Review: Engage in peer review and seek feedback from experienced facilitators or subject matter experts. External perspectives can provide valuable insights.

Training and Development: Invest in training and development programs that enhance facilitation skills, conflict resolution, and open communication.

Adaptability: Be adaptable in your approach, recognizing that each ARCA session is unique. Tailor your facilitation style to the specific needs and dynamics of the team.



The Legacy of Effective Facilitation

In the intricate world of Apollo Root Cause Analysis (Apollo RCA), where problems are dissected, causes are uncovered, and solutions are devised, the role of the facilitator stands as a sentinel of objectivity and integrity.


Effective ARCA facilitation leaves a legacy within organisations. It leads to accurate root cause identification, which, in turn, drives effective incident investigation, continuous improvement, and enhanced organisational resilience. Facilitators who embrace the principles of ARCA contribute not only to the resolution of immediate issues but also to the long-term success and sustainability of their organisations.


In facilitating Apollo RCA sessions, remember that the art of facilitation is a testament to the power of collaboration, the pursuit of truth, and the relentless commitment to excellence.


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