Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Troubleshooting Techniques: Step 5 - It’s fixed, now what?

The problem is solved and now you are done, right? Wrong. Now that the crisis has been resolved, there are a few things you should do next. First, communicate that the problem is solved to the interested parties you sent your status updates to earlier in the process and anybody else who might be interested. Again, the rule here is to err on the side of over communicating instead of under. Summarize the solution as much as possible, keeping in mind that not everyone will have your point of view and understand the complexity of the problem (or its solution) to the degree you do. Also, be sure to give credit to everyone involved, which is crucially important as you build and maintain relationships. Even if it was your brilliant deduction that uncovered the core problem, someone else probably helped you capture the information upon which you drew your conclusions. This is yet another place where you can make a friend or an enemy based on your behavior. An example is shown in Figure 2.



Figure 2: A sample troubleshooting resolution email (click to enlarge)



Next, there may have been some process problem that led to the faulty behavior. This could mean incorrect instructions as mentioned previously, but it could also uncover a design, test, or manufacturing flaw of some kind. Look at the point in your product development processes where the problem should have been caught and fixed and suggest any changes that might prevent it from occurring again on subsequent projects.

For your own purposes, make sure to record the incident and include as many specifics as you can. Should this problem, or a similar one, occur in the future it is handy to have the details at your disposal before you forget about them. Having a good desktop searching tool, like Google Desktop Search, installed on your personal computer can make it easier to find these recordings than exclusively relying upon some manual organization of documents you design.

Finally, you have a decision to make. Now that you are the hero of the day because you solved the problem that everybody was worried about, what else do you do with the information? One option is, you could hoard it, insuring that you will get the call again the next time something similar comes along and give yourself a chance to save the day again. The downside to that is that you may get called every time something similar comes along and put a great deal of pressure on yourself as well as be a distraction to the other tasks you are supposed to be working on. The other way to handle it is to teach someone else how to solve the problem you just fixed. This might be the person who called you with the problem to begin with, so that they can help themselves next time, or it might be a coworker with similar technical knowledge. This gets you out of dealing with troubleshooting situations in the future, but it also limits your hero opportunities. This is another area that you have to decide yourself with experience over time as your guide.

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posted by Pete Johnson @ 9:18 PM   0 comments links to this post

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