Rational Troubleshooting and Betty

The Adaptive Model of technical support about which much is written and details can be found elsewhere is a technique for structuring a support organisation in a way that removes the artificial barriers often imposed unthinkingly. For instance, when there is a "frontline" organisation which is local to the customer, and a "backline" organisation that is distributed, one frontline engineer has no access to excellent technical skills that might be in a peer frontline organisation. The tacit belief is that superior technical knowledge is "upwards", and to access that technical knowledge is an "escalation", the very choice of that word bringing to mind an upward movement.

The Adaptive Model is a leveller, and will allow anyone in the support organisation to be involved in any customer issue, irrespective of their geographical or hierarchical location. Suddenly a much greater number of alternatives are presented as potential candidates to answer the question "who is the best person for the job?" as it might be a "frontline" engineer in another country or region who has just the expertise that is needed to solve the issue.

This levelling brings with it two hard problems to solve. One is how to offer the issue to a wider set of people than before, and secondly how to communicate clearly the needs of the customer within a dynamically assembled team quickly and effectively. Clever routing tools answer the first issue. I believe that rational troubleshooting processes satisfy the needs of the second, and we have done research in Sun to identify the time efficiencies possible when people in a support organisation are good at, and genuinely use the same thinking methods.

This is not template completion. Template completion is easy and practically useless in terms of time saving.

The results from this research were derived from an experiment using people who use the "SGRT thinking way" - an internal-to-Sun label which expands to practical and consistent use of the right tool for the situation, used to the degree necessary to get the result needed. It's the mindset of using Situation Appraisal when first speaking to the customer, and if the SA concludes with an inkling that this is a problem, seamlessly and elegantly transitioning into Problem Analysis questioning, using the process so well that only a customer also trained in rational troubleshooting would recognise that they are being guided to answer specification issues, and with product content knowledge that allows a deeper exploration of the issue than "Machine Crashed". It's then offered to other technically capable engineers who also approach the collaboration with the same thinking processes, continue SA, continue PA and test their possible causes against the specification information already gathered, before concluding with Think Beyond The Fix.

Working in a support organisation is a bit like fishing in a river with a bucket. When you have space for more work you dip your bucket in the never-ending stream, and there are two options - you either fix the customer issue yourself, or you gather information to advocate the customer situation to the dynamic team you are going to build around you. Rivers can be flat, and broad, and have deltas, the concept of always going up is gone, to be replaced with flow.

In Sun, when we experimented with some technically experienced volunteers who were SGRT trained and supported in a coaching group, we found that the customers benefited in elapsed time savings hugely when rational troubleshooting was applied.

In the Adaptive model, good use of rational troubleshooting will be key to solving customer problems in a timely manner, and the results speak for themselves.
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