Improvements to the Right Questions (version 8)

A new version of my Universal Troubleshooting Guide is now available (version 8). I’ve used the questions in a variety of problem-solving situations and recorded feedback from people solving real issues. The language has been tightened up, some questions have been dropped, and others added. Some of the updated queries:

  • “Is the problem clearly defined?”: this needs to be addressed early on, so I put it high up in the “Basics” column. Sometimes the issue at hand is obvious, but when it’s not I’ve seen a lot of flailing about. How the problem is framed often implies the needed remedial action, so errors at this stage will propagate throughout the entire process. Especially when dealing with very complex systems, problem identification can be the hardest part, but taking the time to understand what is actually wrong means that your fix-it efforts will be addressing something real.
  • “Is everyone who might know the answer aware of the issue?”: the solution often lies within your own organization, if you bother to ask.
  • “Should I clarify or add detail to problem reports?”: put on your deerstalker and become a language detective, as detailed in my series on Skillful Questioning.
  • “Is this my problem to solve? Is a co-worker, business partner, manufacturer, or vendor avoiding responsibility?”: I’ve seen situations where someone has taken on a troubleshooting project without first considering who should be obligated to fix the problem. Especially if you repair things on behalf of others, the best use of your time and resources might be to put that wrench down and call the responsible party to account.

2 Comments

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  1. You could probably drop the NLP thing.. How about something like this http://www.troubleshooters.com/ustep3.htm

    You can use Sherlock imagery, generic enough.

    If you need something like NLP in the mix, replace it with Clean Language questioning 🙂

    Client: I’m stuck with no way out.
    Therapist 1: Have you got the determination to walk away?

    Clearly not troubleshooting, possibly Enterprise Architecture.
    This intervention uses very unclean language as it:
    – implies the solution for the client is to be away from their current condition
    – imposes determination as the resource required
    – assumes the client will ‘walk away’ (rather than leaping, soaring, melting, evaporating, etc.)

    Therapist 2: What would happen if you could find a way out?

    Slightly better…however
    – embedded command, ‘find a way out’. (“fix it yourself” in other words 🙂

    Clean Therapist 3: (FINALLY we’re getting somewhere)

    Client: I’m stuck with no way out.

    CLQ: And what kind of stuck with no way out is that stuck with no way out?

    Client A: My whole body feels as if its sinking into the ground.
    Client B: I can’t see the way forward. It’s all foggy.
    Client C: Every door that was opened to me is closed.

    CLQ: And when you are stuck with no way out, where are stuck?

    Client D: It’s as if my feet are frozen to the ground.
    Client E: I’m in a long tunnel and there’s no light at either end.
    Client F: I see myself wrapped up like a mummy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually I’m here commenting because I need a therapist. I was looking over my sprawling Solr configuration and got depressed. Several people with their hands in it, various configuration drift. It’s a close-to-the-metal replication setup that doesn’t rise to the level of zookeeper or to being a insignificant speck in someone else’s Cloudera scenario. I can’t believe SolrCloud wants to shard out of the gate, so depressing. However, I have gotten over it and accepted that it will be an unmanaged configuration. I have emacs, and eclipse and remote system explorer. So I can run emacs within a terminal within eclipse, with emacs ability to find remote files over scp. I can even run vim within emacs, or right-click Launch Terminal. I’m ok…

      Like

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