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Look Before You Leap

Get the big picture before jumping into action

One of the things I love about using the Kepner-Tregoe methodology is the clarity it gives me. By stepping away from the immediate actions and looking at a situation from a holistic point of view service outcomes improve greatly. Having the ability to quickly review the issue you are looking at from different perspectives will show that there is nearly always more to a situation than just one particular problem. In doing so, we are becoming more pro-active which results in an improved customer confidence.

There are two situations that we need to consider here, in this post I want to look at the way we deal with the type of issues that cause real disruption and annoyance to your customers, but are perhaps not considered to be critical business events. They are in your back log and need fixing, as they are the “lurking crocodiles” in your system.

One of the good things about the type of people that work in IT is that they like to fix things, one of the bad things is that they like to try to fix things before they really understand the true nature of the problem.

Get in a Scrum to regroup and focus – manage that backlog!

When issues are ongoing and a known resolution is not immediately obvious, then planning little “scrum-root-cause-analysis” meetings might be the way forward. Taking the time to pull your team together and focus on the issue at hand is not only advisable, it is one of the most productive actions you can take in this situation.

Often, simply talking through the issue, clearly defining the error and making sure you are ocussing on the source of the incident will give the clarity that is needed to direct efforts in the right direction. It is important to do this before changes are made to try and resolve the current situation, these changes may well serve to muddy the waters and ultimately make finding the root cause of the incident much more difficult.

Far from being a waste of precious time, the time taken to focus in on the real problem can greatly reduce the time it will take to repair the fault and get the business back to work.

The right people, the right information, the right direction

While this is a simple concept, there are some caveats I need to mention.

This way of working will not help if you do not have the right people in the room, or if you do not have accurate, factual information about what has happened, when it happened, who it happened to and where it happened.

You need to gather your subject matter experts (SMEs) and they need to have done their homework and come to the meeting with as much information as they can gather. They need to understand the importance to taking this time out, as well the managers circulating them and pushing them for action.

The other caveat to be aware of is the need to get stuck into content discussions with your team of experts. A strong leader is needed to “drag them out” of the techie details and provide them with guidance to create the bigger picture, identify information gaps and give direction to the next steps. Their expertise and knowledge has to be directed so it lands in the right time and in the right place. This will allow you to focus the efforts of the team in the right area, giving the best opportunity for a swift and successful resolution.

Changing mindsets

This can be a difficult thing for the action-focussed IT technician to accept. There is a mindset that makes stopping to talk about an issue seem like a mistake, busily trying every option they can think of to get things working again is what they are used to doing…and it makes them feel useful. Collaboration and process could actually inspire them to get new ideas.

This is the mindset that needs to be changed in order for effective and successful problem solving to become a part of your culture. I imagine that, if you are reading this post, you are ready to scrum and want to put KT into practise to solve your problems. The key to harnessing the effectiveness of this way of working is to embed it into the culture of the organization – make it “just the way we do things around here”.


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