Learning Mindset: Carrier Strike Group 4 Unveils Root Cause Analysis Tool to Improve Fleet Performance
02 March 2023
NORFOLK, Va. --
Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 4 staff hosted the first-ever “Root Cause Analysis Tool (RCAT) University” at CSG-4 Headquarters, Feb. 27 to 28.
This course of instruction served as the official unveiling of CSG-4’s in-house developed tool for root cause analysis and presented the methodology behind the tool. The course was attended by over 100 training, assessment, inspection, safety, and human factors experts from around the Fleet.
RCAT is a web-based application that actions the vision of Rear Adm. Jeffrey “Caesar” Czerewko, CSG-4 commander. It enables enhanced data collection during assessment events by capturing and cataloguing causal factors that affect performance. The tool was originally conceived to document issues that impact tactical execution, but RCAT has broader applicability for all organizations interested in capturing personnel, process and material causal factors, and tying them to both good and bad impacts. The output of RCAT will enable a data-informed feedback loop to various Navy systems in order to improve future prioritization and resourcing decisions to correct root causes.
RCAT was developed with client-side web languages by Lt. Cmdr. Sean Lavelle, CSG-4‘s software and analytics development team lead, and continues to incorporate new features as the tool expands utility.
“The beauty of building a program that runs in any web browser, on any computer, without network connectivity is that it does not require a separate ‘authority to operate.’ This allows us to develop and deploy daily updates,” said Lavelle. “Speed of iteration drives the difference in quality between the software you choose to use on your phone every day and the software you have to use when you come to work.”
The program runs offline and exports all captured data via a small-sized text file when connectivity is available. Since its inception, RCAT has undergone over 65 iterations to best support exercise assessors.
“Having a ‘warfighter coder’ within the ranks of CSG-4 has enabled ‘Silicon Valley' speed of development, rapid iterating, and smooth incorporation of new user interface and analytics features to best meet the needs of our assessors,” said Capt. Matthew “Wrecking Ball” Wellman, CSG-4's training and assessments department head and RCAT project lead. “We absolutely could not have realized the RCAT vision without the talent and dedication of Lt. Cmdr. Lavelle. The Navy needs more line officers with software coding skillsets.”
Wellman kicked-off RCAT University with a leveling brief on the RCAT methodology.
“RCAT is just the tool that enables a mindset shift in training and assessments. We aim to put the emphasis on learning and take it away from a checklist mentality focused on a minimum passing grade,” said Wellman. “To ensure maximum lethality for the high-end fight, the Navy must focus on optimizing the execution of each and every tactical and technical task. It starts with the individual watchstander and builds from there. That is what is required to win decisively in battle.”
The RCAT methodology is framed around four key concepts: an infinite mindset, continuous improvement, aggregation of marginal gains, and root cause analysis. These related and overlapping philosophies are popular in modern business practices, but have not previously been embraced in Navy assessment culture. Sharing this methodology with other Fleet stakeholders during RCAT University helps build a foundation focused on developing a learning mindset throughout the Fleet.
The two-day course was attended by representatives from CSG-15, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), Undersea Warfighting Development Center (UWDC), Naval Information Warfighting Development Center (NIWDC), Tactical Training Group Atlantic and Pacific, Director of Warfighter Development (OPNAV N7), Submarine Forces Atlantic, Naval Air Forces Atlantic, Naval Postgraduate School, Office of the Naval Inspector General, Navy Safety Command, Board of Inspection and Survey, and Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Pacific.
Attendees were also instructed in RCAT functionality for the user interface, database administration, and data analytics.
“RCAT can be customized to meet the unique requirements of each assessment and inspection command,” said Lavelle. “The novel feature of the tool is the common binning of causal factors whether safety, tactics, or maintenance related – which then provides the opportunity for extensive trend analysis and correlation across all evolutions and Navy communities.”
RCAT was trialed during Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group’s (GRFCSG) Group Sail in fall 2022 and was most recently used by Tactical Training Group Atlantic to assess GRFCSG’s Fleet Synthetic Training Exercise – Joint. Since initial trials, RCAT has captured over 1,500 assessor observations and catalogued over 800 recommended corrective actions. CSG-4 assessors will fully employ RCAT in support of GRFCSG’s upcoming Composite Training Unit Exercise.
“As RCAT’s motto states ‘Sapere Aude’ (‘Dare to Know’), the goal is to understand and address root causes, not just treat the symptoms of issues,” said Wellman. “This is key in supporting the Navy as a learning organization.”
Czerewko spearheaded the establishment of RCAT to help build a better foundation for a collaborative learning environment during training exercises.
“As CSG-4 continues to coach, mentor, train and assess Atlantic Fleet units, my staff is charged to instill the principle of continuous learning,” emphasized Czerewko. “Building trust between the training audience and the assessment team is critical in order to incentivize blunt and honest self-assessment and self-correction. When things go wrong in an exercise environment, we must constantly think about ‘the why.’ Critical self-assessment and identification and correction of causal factors is really what RCAT is all about. By asking ‘why’ in training scenarios, this inquisitive approach prepares our deployed commanders and their crews to effectively operate in the midst of uncertainty.”
CSG-4 is a team that consists of experienced Sailors, Marines, government civilians and reservists, who mentor, train and assess U.S. 2nd Fleet combat forces to forward-deploy in support and defense of national interests. CSG-4’s experts shape the readiness of U.S. 2nd Fleet carrier strike groups, expeditionary strike groups, amphibious readiness groups (ARG) and independent deploying ships through live, at-sea and synthetic training, as well as academic instruction. Along with its subordinate commands, Tactical Training Group Atlantic and Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Atlantic, CSG-4 prepares every Atlantic-based CSG, ARG and independent deployer for sustained forward-deployed high-tempo operations.