If you manage a team of technical people – maybe VoIP engineers or CO techs – and there’s a big technical problem, your job is to ask the right questions. To be the Troubleshooting Coach.
You don’t need to be a technical expert yourself. In fact, you can often reach a solution more quickly by asking good questions than by diving deep into the details – and it’s your job as the team manager to make sure this happens.
As an engineer (and I speak from personal experience) it’s easy to dive into the technical details of a problem – log files, SAS traces, Wireshark captures, configuration files – and spend hours analyzing all this data.
And since phone networks tend to be complex, there can be a lot of data.
If a group of engineers are all troubleshooting together on a conference call it can be even worse – as everyone individually dives into a different pool of data, and then distracts each other on a variety of tangents.
This is often counter-productive. So whether you’re a manager, a VoIP engineer, an IP engineer or a switch tech, we need to challenge ourselves to ask the right questions – so we can spend time looking for the right answers.
Troubleshooting Coach: Asks good questions
As you read through this list of questions, some of them will seem obvious. That’s a good thing – it means you’re already thinking along the right lines.
The challenge is to think clearly in the midst of a problem. To realize that the discussion is going nowhere. To realize that we don’t have a clear strategy for solving the problem – and that’s when you, as the Troubleshooting Coach need to call a time-out, and return to these bedrock troubleshooting questions.
- Can we describe the problem, using specifics?
- When did the problem start?
- What changed at that time?
- In what situations does the problem occur, and in what situations does it not occur?
- Can we do some testing to tweak those situations to identify one key difference?
- Which pieces of equipment are involved in the problem?
- Can we eliminate some of that equipment from the call path, and does the problem still occur?
- What diagnostics do we have available, and what diagnostics do we need?
- How could we workaround this issue temporarily to reduce the impact?
- What expertise do we need to understand this better – and who has it (e.g. vendors, IT support, consultants)?
If you want a more comprehensive approach for thinking about troubleshooting check out our DAMT troubleshooting framework.
We often play the role of troubleshooting coach for those clients who have us on a monthly retainer – where we can provide that outside perspective AND a deep technical understanding if needed – but a lot of the value comes simply from asking the right questions.
Whether you’re technical or not, a good troubleshooting coach will help everyone to slow down, ask the right questions, and focus on resolving the issue quickly and safely.
That’s the most important role a manager or supervisor can play in a crisis, and you don’t need to be a technical expert to do it well.