By Martine Joosten, Kepner-Tregoe

Acting quickly to put out the fires

I wrote in a previous post about the need to regroup and really examine a situation in order to get clarity about what is happening and where we When the pressure to act is high--Lessons for IT support under pressureneed to start looking to resolve a problematic situation. Obviously there are times when urgent action is required, we simply do not have the luxury of time and even a thirty-minute delay is too costly to the business.

If your company is losing $50K per minute due to a critical incident, then you need to move, and move quickly. Managing the effect is the critical driver in IT environments and requires clear thinking and effective action. When there is a fire in a building, the fire brigade doesn’t pull a team together to start to plan their actions. An organized set of well-orchestrated actions--that have been rehearsed over and over again—are quickly taken. Because the team is prepared and running on ‘auto-pilot;’ things are managed properly.

A scattergun approach will not work

When something major goes seriously awry and the business is depending on you to make it right, you need the orchestrated action of a fire brigade. Yet too often people run in different directions to try and make things right. With luck, one of those actions will work, but there is a good chance that any one of these ‘solutions’, in isolation, will not be successful. In a worst-case scenario, you may even exacerbate the problem, making it worse and more complicated to resolve. The longer an incident goes on and the more attempts at applying fixes, the further you are from understanding what happened.

Thinking correctly under pressure

A sense of urgency can be counterproductive, unless thinking correctly under pressure is ingrained in the culture of the organization. Taking the time to correctly assess the situation is not intended to slow business down; the key is to enable structured problem solving to begin as quickly as possible when issues occur by training the brain to think and use experience efficiently

Speed up the process by using process

There are clever people working in IT. They can assess the situation and match it to similar events they have encountered in the past, considering and discarding possible solutions as they go. But they need tools to support and speed up this process and quickly identify a subset of feasible solutions to a crisis situation.

People working in emergency services—whether it is a fire brigade or an IT support desk-- need a standard set of checks to obtain the facts, quickly take stock of a situation and— seemingly without thinking—take the right course of action. They are actually thinking in a deliberate way, matching the situation to previous scenarios faced; noting any differences, considering actions taken and weighing value of these actions in the current crisis. In this way, they can use experience effectively, testing it against current facts, rather than jumping to action immediately. (oops sorry, patient died, but my process worked)

A cool head in a crisis

The ability to keep a cool head in a crisis can be a natural personality trait (nature) or it can be cultivated (nurture) by developing successful problem solving strategies in an environment that encourages and rewards using them. Creating a culture that embraces a clear thinking approach to emergency actions helps IT teams succeed and thrive in a crisis.

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

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