BlueDragon: the Swiss Army Knife of Problem Solving Systems

In this segment, we discuss the versatility of the BlueDragon Integrated Problem-solving System (IPS), which is in wide use at the Department of Energy’s national labs and the nuclear weapons complex. In essence, BlueDragon IPS is the Swiss Army knife of complex problem solving.

Root cause analysis (RCA) and other problem-solving methods traditionally teach us how to use many different data analysis and causal analysis tools. Tools such as Pareto charts, events and causal factors charts, barrier analysis tables, comparative timeline analysis, task and change analysis, and many other separate tools.  Tools that many companies incorporate into procedures as a problem-solving took box.  But how to use each of the tools, which ones to use when, and how to integrate the results of those tools into a coherent and defendable position, left a lot to be desired. In addition, there is often confusion as to which tools are only for data analysis and which ones are for causal analysis, which is required for getting to the deepest-seated causes of a problem. 

What BlueDragon IPS set out to accomplish is to combine the best elements of those time-tested root cause analysis tools and techniques, eliminated the waste by using Lean concepts, and making the whole process incredibly efficient using Agile and other scientific principles such as High Reliability Organizations.  The result is a single BlueDragon chart that is much like a Swiss Army knife; it allows a user to apply any and all tools that are needed to analyze evidence, conduct data analysis and causal analysis. It also does what none of the other current methods and tools can do; seamlessly integrate these analyses on a single chart. 

There is a saying that, to a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  But BlueDragon is not just a hammer, i.e., a single tool that fits all applications. What we’ve developed is a framework that is extremely flexible, allowing the use of any and all of the tools at our disposal, in their appropriate application.  For example, BlueDragon is a powerful application for use during accident investigations and post-event root cause analysis. But it can also be used proactively for threat analysis, vulnerability assessments, audits and just about any kind of self-assessment of an organization’s line of defenses (i.e. think Risk Management).  BlueDragon is not a hammer that solves everything with the same approach, as if everything is a nail; it easily accommodates the nuances and many different analysis tools as dictated by the information we gather.

Different industries have the need for different types of data analysis tools. For example, manufacturing uses control charts, and Lean Six Sigma practitioners know that there are hundreds of terrific statistical analysis and data analysis tools. All of those can be accommodated during the first phase of a BlueDragon investigation; the gathering, organizing and analyzing of evidence and data.  Bluedragon also brings an element of nimbleness, where we can rapidly bring in a different analytical tool if we are not getting the results we need from the current analysis or approach, so we don’t waste a lot of time using an ineffective tool.  In general, we think of BlueDragon as a warm blanket over your current organization’s problem-solving tool kit.

One of the main reasons there are so many recurring problems within organizations that take time and money away from mission critical tasks, is that there is a lack of trained experts for solving complex, human-centric problems, especially in modern socio-technical work environments.  BlueDragon IPS provides training for organizations such that they can establish their own cadre of problem-solving experts and they do not need to be the functional area subject matter experts; rather, they will become your problem-solving experts.  For the most wicked problems causing the most disruption, damage or financial hardships, BlueDragon Special Investigators can be contracted to come in and lead your investigation.  Sadly, mainstream academia does not have post-graduate degrees or a dedicated field of study for root cause analysis and solving complex human-centric problems.  It is up to each organization to train their personnel on these soft skills essential ingredients for developing strong problem-solving skills and continuous improvement cultures. 

The Space Shuttle Challenger, which exploded 10 seconds after launch on January 28, 1986, is a great example of what happens when scientists and engineer are tasked with solving complex, human-centric problems without a problem-solving expert on the team.   The Rogers Commission, which was comprised of the world’s best astronauts, aerospace engineers and PhDs, was tasked with investigating the disaster.  It was clear that the direct cause of the explosion was the failure of O-rings on the booster rocket, which were not functional below 53 degrees.  NASA chose to launch in near freezing temperatures that day, despite dire warnings from their Engineers.  The deepest-seated causes of the Challenger disaster went far beyond the mechanical failure; there were programmatic, organizational and cultural issues that needed to be investigated and addressed.  

However, the Rogers Commission was missing a key member: an expert at solving these complex, human-centric issues in a very complicated socio-technical working environment.  The resulting investigation focused on the kind of things that astronauts and PhDs were familiar with and knew how to fix.  As a result, the Rogers Commission final report lacked the depth of analysis required to truly prevent recurrence of this type of incident.  17 years later, we had the Columbia accident, and the resulting investigation found many of the same programmatic, organizational and cultural issues that were identified during the Challenger investigation: deep-seated organizational failures, violations of safety protocols, ignoring warnings from within the organization, vertical and horizontal communication breakdowns, and many more.  The Columbia incident all but doomed the Space Shuttle Program. 

The lesson to be learned here is that we must include problem-solving subject matter experts on these complex investigations; specialists like BlueDragon Special Investigators that are armed with the knowledge, the experience and the most sophisticated problem-solving framework for solving these kind of complex (and even wicked) problems.  However, these skills are difficult to develop and master.  The skills to integrate quantitative and qualitative analysis with causal analysis.  Because developing a qualitative understanding of human behaviors, organizations and their is critical.  That’s where BlueDragon IPS really shines; the Swiss Army knife of problem solving frameworks. 

For more information on BlueDragon IPS, how to hire BlueDragon Special Investigators, or how to become a BlueDragon Practitioner, please visit our website at: or email us at

> William Toth, PhD – BlueDragon VP of Research & Development
> Rob De La Espriella, BD3 – CEO and Founder, BlueDragon Integrated Problem-solving System

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