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The Value of Critical Thinking in Solving Problems and Asking the Right Questions

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The Value of Critical Thinking in Solving Problems and Asking the Right Questions


How many times, have you been faced with a problem and you didn't even know where to start or what to do about it?  If you've been in this situation before how did you work through it and find a solution?  What kinds techniques did you use to get on track and how successful were they?

When it comes to my job and what I do in supporting the products (Maximo to be exact) that I do, I generally feel pretty confident going into pretty much any situation no matter how difficult it may seem on the surface.  I'm sure you're saying "oh yeah sure you know everything about Maximo, right"......well of course I don't....who really can when it comes to such a mature and complex software suite that can be tailored to many different industries and uses?  Of course it's a complicated product that challenges myself and anyone that uses it or supports it.  That doesn't scare me at all, in fact I like to be challenged and so should you.

So why does all of this not scare me?  Well to be honest like I said I don't know everything about the product but I do know quite a bit about a lot of it....and of course that does help.....but it's the other tools beyond product knowledge that really help me to get to the bottom of a problem....not only bugs in the software that I support but really any problem.  When I'm faced with a problem I try to go through a number questions in my head that I'll eventually ask the person who has the problem.  I do this to put together a definition of what the problem is and help to put me on what I believe is the right path to resolution.

What kinds of questions do I ask?  I first start asking questions about what's actually happening and in doing so also rule out the things that aren't happening....then I ask questions about where the problem is occurring, when it's occurring and what the extent of the problem is.....

Me: What's the problem? (This will help me to determine the what's actually happening and define the problem.)

Client: I can't create a work order! (I know this IS happening.)

M: Are you creating the work order manually in Work Order Tracking or from the PM application?

C: Manually in Work Order Tracking.  (This helps me to rule out 2 things that the problem is NOT but IS.  We know that it's not because of a cron-task because he tells me that it's done manually and we know it's not because of a problem with a PM generating a work order because he tells me he's using Work Order Tracking and not PMs.  This is part of the WHAT and the WHERE.)

M: What are the steps that you're using?  (This helps me to better define specifically what the issue is.)

C: We go to the Work Order Tracking application, try to click on the new record icon, it's not even there, and there's no error message.  (This helps to answer more of the WHAT but also WHEN and WHERE.  I now know it happens WHEN a user tries to click on the new record icon while in the Work Order Tracking application.  The actual icon doesn't appear to be there.  Because of the client's response to my previous question it helps me to narrow things down but also helps me to
come up with additional questions.)

M: Who is the "we"?  Is this happening for all users or only certain users?  (This helps to continue narrowing down and defining the problem.)

C: It's only happening for 2 of our users, it works for everyone else.  This happens every time they go into Work Order Tracking!  (Ok now I know it IS happening for two users but it is NOT happening for the other users.  That tells me that the icon is there for everyone except for 2 users.  Why would that happen?)

M: To summarize, what we know is that the problem is happening in the Work Order Tracking application when two specific people attempt to click on the new record icon they find that it's not there, is that correct? (I always like to summarize for the client to make sure I have the problem definition right.  I now have a statement about WHAT is happening, WHEN it's happening, WHERE it's happening, WHO it's happening to etc.)

C: Yup, that's exactly what's happening!

Ok, now I've got something to work with.  I've established what IS and IS NOT happening.  I've established WHEN, WHERE and WHO it's happening to.  So what do I do now?  Well I can use this information to take me in the direction of a solution by asking myself several questions that will help me to come up with more questions for the client.

- Why would there be 2 users that don't see the icon but others do?
- There's no error of any kind being displayed and it is working for some users so I'll go with the assumption that something is different between these two groups of people it's not likely a bug.
- Could this be a configuration of some kind that's stopping the users from seeing the icon because I don't think it's a bug?
- What types of groupings exist in Maximo for users that can be configured?
- What differences exist between those that do not see the icon and those who do?

Ok, well I know that in Maximo there are security groups, it's a way to configure the product to allow certain users to use certain functions but restrict others, it groups users together based on their security rights.....seems like a great theory based on what I've learned so far.....let's go with that.

Me: Can you tell me if you use security groups to restrict actions in Maximo?

Client: Yes, we do.
(Ok great, we're getting someplace.)

M: How many groups do you have?

C: We have two I believe.  (Ok, now things are falling into theory is looking pretty good at this point.)

M: Ok, can you tell me, are the 2 people who are NOT able to see the icon in the same security group?

C: Let me check.....yeah they're in the new security group for new hires...and these users are the only people in it. (Hmm interesting....)

M: Ok, let's take a look at the application settings for Work Order Tracking for that security group....

C: Oh wow, the "create work order" right for the Work Order Tracking application is unchecked!  I can't believe how we missed that!  Thanks for helping us!

As you can see, asking the right questions and letting those questions lead you to a resolution is a lot easier than you might think.  Obviously this wasn't a very complicated problem but as I started by saying, I'm confident that I can help to find a solution in every situation by simply following this process every time.  Next time you're faced with any problem, try this approach.  Determine the things that the problem definitely is, rule out the things that it isn't by asking the WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW, WHO questions like the one's that I asked.  I think you'll find more often then not they'll help you to solve your problem.

Until next safe out there!


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