By Martine Joosten, Senior Consultant, Kepner-Tregoe 

Problem solving the KT way takes so much time! This is often what we hear when we challenge people to think first and act later. But last week I was able to show a client that by just adding focus with the KT problem solving process, progress can be made within an hour and the incident is instantaneously solvable.

The client had sorted some top priority IT incidents and several teams were scheduled for a “KT-Consult” for about an hour to learn how KT clear thinking could help. I was facilitating the content experts and asking KT questions: what I saw happening was heartbreaking. There was a lot of resistance to taking the time to analyze problems and a tendency to jump to the “obvious” cause.

For example, one incident was reported as follows: Arabic expiration date causing WX generation to fail. I suggested we take a moment and ask what is happening here and what evidence do we have, such as errors, screen shots etc.

The data told us:  WX file creation was failing, due to the application error "non-numerical characters found.” We now understood the concern a bit better because there was an assumed cause and effect relationship.  Arabic characters in the expiry-date field caused the creation to fail. But the strange thing was that the same type of non-numerical Arabic characters in other files, did not cause any errors or disruption. The logfiles showed these characters in the database since at least February, but the issue only arose on March 13 and March 18.

“Blaming” the Arabic characters was a bit short-sided, and the fix of replacing all Arabic with numerical characters didn’t make sense if we thought more clearly about it. We asked, how does the Arabic character issue explain that it is happening in some files but not in others, and only on those particular dates?

Using IS and IS NOT questions gave us a clear path for further investigation: 

·         What IS, and IS NOT relevant about the files?

·         What is unique about the problem files? Do they have tokens, recurring payment, etc?

·         What happened on March 13th, in relation to the application creating the WX files?

The client did his homework and reported that by comparing the IS and IS NOT information, they found cause and solved the issue. “We first checked what was there on the 13th and 18th, that wasn’t on the other days and discovered that on those days a specific client had transactions, who didn’t have transactions on the other days.”

Comparing the client-configuration for the WX files to another client who had problem-free Arabic characters in the expiry date revealed that only specific record types, not used for other client records had the problem. Updating the expiry date by eliminating Arabic characters for the problem clients, made the WX creation successful.

“Although the Arabic characters shouldn’t be in the database at all, I have now found why it is sometimes causing an issue in the WX creation,” said the client. The problem files were corrected immediately. Taking the time to use KT Problem Analysis fixed the failures and freed up the team to focus on daily tasks.  Even though the misplaced Arabic characters continue to lurk, the database is now operational and the team has clear evidence on what future fixes need to be scheduled. 

Happiness is choice! You could become happy if you use time wisely with Kepner-Tregoe processes.

The KT problem solving approach is used worldwide for root cause analysis
and to improve IT stability