5 Tips for Preparing an Investigation Report for Management

Construction Worker with Tablet
January 10, 2019

So, you’ve been assigned as the team leader for an incident investigation. You’re ready to conduct your investigation, you have your team together, and you have a good understanding of the problem at hand. Before you get too far along, keep in mind that the final product of your investigation will be some type of report of your findings. Now would be a good time to assess management’s expectations for your final report. Here are 5 tips to help you produce a quality incident report.

1) Include just the facts

Make sure your report contains just the facts you discovered during your investigation. Your root cause analysis is based on facts and evidence collected by your team. There should be no opinions or judgements. You are trying to keep your biases out of the investigation, and management will quickly spot any indication that you had an agenda in mind.

2) Create a sequence of events that led to the incident

In TapRooT®, we use a tool called SnapCharT® to collect and display data. Often, reports are difficult to read. The data is presented out of chronological order, spread out across the report. Paragraphs of information are written, sometimes in long, complex sentences that don’t give a clear picture of the problem. This is not how you should present your findings.

Using the SnapCharT® is a great way to give a visual representation of the data collected. It makes it simple to understand exactly what happened, while at the same time identifying any holes in the investigation. By presenting the data in a visual format, management will have a much clearer picture of the incident, and they will need far less verbal clarification of the data.

3) Ensure that your corrective actions are fixing root causes

It is common in some reports to have corrective actions that are not associated with any root causes. Poorly-written reports list the root causes, but then provide corrective actions that do not directly address those root causes. Your managers should look at each corrective action and be able to quickly identify the root cause that is being addressed. Putting your corrective actions in a table format, showing each root cause and its associated corrective actions, ensures that you are not providing extra corrective actions that do not fix the problems found.

4) Use a common report format

In order to easily assess your results, management should expect all incident reports to be in the same format. The actual format used is not especially critical. However, the reports submitted to your management team should be in a format that is agreed to in advance. TapRooT® allows you to provide global report templates to your investigation teams. This has several advantages:

  • It is much easier to write the report. Your team does not have to start reports from scratch each time. This saves a lot of time and effort.
  • It also makes the review of the results much more efficient. Managers know what to expect in each report, and they don’t have to page through the report looking for specific pieces of data. Everything is in the same place each time, and your managers will be able to quickly review the results and approve the corrective actions.

5) Provide periodic updates

Finally, you should provide periodic updates on the status of the investigation. You should know management’s expectations as to when the final report will be issued. Additionally, you should give periodic updates on the status of the investigation, either verbally or in the form of a preliminary report. If you feel you will be exceeding the deadline, just let management know. If you let management know you need a few more days, most teams will be accommodating. You can give the options: “I can give you a complete, in-depth report next Tuesday, or I can meet your Friday deadline with a less-than-complete report.” I don’t know if any management team who would not be willing to wait a couple of extra days for a more accurate final result.

The incident report is the final product of your investigation that is submitted to management for approval. Having a clear, concise, easy-to-understand final report will make it easier and faster to get corrective actions approved and implemented, which is the entire purpose of your investigation.

View the recording of our webinar with TapRooT® to learn how you can enable a human factors-based incident investigation lifecycle, and how the integration of Enablon and TapRooT® facilitates the tasks of incident investigators:

Enablon/TapRooT Webinar


Ken Reed