Monday, February 28, 2011

Mental Visio

In 25+ years of technical service and sales, the number one ability I have seen that is hardest to learn is troubleshooting.  I don’t mean basic stuff. OK, I do mean even basic stuff. 

Here is an example. You switch the wall switch that turns on the desk lamp, only this time it doesn’t. Here is a partial list of items that could cause the light not to come on.  The breaker has tripped, the switch is bad, the lamp isn’t plugged in, the bulb is bad, power has been disrupted, the lamp is damaged, or you’ve gone blind.  

A natural troubleshooter can quickly sort these mentally into buckets. Likely, probable, possible, and unlikely.  It is unlikely that you went blind, or the switch spontaneously failed. It is possible that there is a blackout or the lamp has shorted. It’s probable that the breaker has tripped or the lamp isn’t plugged in. But it is most likely that the bulb is bad. This is a process that takes less than a second. It is slightly harder to do this when troubleshooting a VM server setup with hundreds options to sort.

Now I have known some very good techs who are not good troubleshooters. They can follow flowcharts and step by step processes, but not generally create one. I have never yet been able to teach this to someone, I have just been able to give them some guidelines and processes.

So do you have members of your team that lack this skill? It doesn’t have to be a technician, salespeople need this skill as well. In my experience providing them as much support as possible to overcome this deficiency is key. This is not an issue you can train away, and you don’t need to, if you can document.

Just be sure to let them know, when they hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras. 

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