Effective Problem Management Techniques
Problem Management Techniques provide a great toolkit for identifying root cause and then determining an appropriate recommended permanent resolution. They seem difficult and complex to use but, they are each a straightforward method.
The struggle may arise when determining in which circumstance to apply the appropriate technique. What are some of the techniques and how could we apply them? Let’s take a brief look and see what we can uncover. But first off, let’s define problem management.
What Is Problem Management?
Problem management is a longer-term approach that aims to either speed up the resolution of incidents. But, preferably, to eliminate them altogether. It’s the follow-up activity to identify root causes and long-term solutions, as opposed to incident management’s “fire-fighting”.
An effective problem management process maximizes system availability, improves service levels, reduces costs, and improves customer convenience and satisfaction.
While problem management is easy to understand, implementing it within your own organization is extremely challenging. It happens often, that problem management doesn’t produce any of the desired outputs upon implementation. To prevent that, you must recognize the importance of both the reactive and proactive parts of it.
Reactive Problem Management
Picture 1. Reactive Problem Management
Reactive problem management reacts to incidents that have already occurred and focuses effort on eliminating their root cause and showing up again. The focus here is to increase long-term service stability and, consequently, customer satisfaction.
Proactive Problem Management
Picture 2. Proactive Problem Management
Proactive problem management is a continuous process that doesn’t wait for an incident to happen to react. This type of problem management is always active and always on guard.
“Proactive problem management can be extremely challenging.”
Especially in an environment where you have lots of services, different technologies, and when many things are going on.
With proactive problem management, the focus is on continuous data analysis, and to do that, you need a large volume of quality data.
There are several data analysis techniques that proactive problem management uses in daily operation. Let’s break down six most efficient problem management techniques.
This collaborative method allows you to gather a number of key experts and knowledgeable individuals to come together to share prospective ideas about the cause of a problem.
This allows you to map out all possible causes and potential solutions. With the brainstorming technique, you have more eyes seeing a problem from different perspectives. That’s the key advantage of this technique, and it’s good enough to try this out.
This method offers you a logical approach to the problem-solving process. Kepner-Tregoe method has a set of steps for identifying the root cause. It revolves around defining the problem, describing the problem in terms of identity, location, time (duration) and size (impact), establishing possible causes, testing the most probable cause, and verifying the true cause. Therefore, when you need formality and structure this method is very useful.
Pain Value Analysis
Pain Value Analysis, instead of analyzing the number of incidents or problems, focuses on the impact of those particular incidents and problems brought to the business. So, this technique gives you a broader view of the impact, which is definitely more important than the number of problems.
It allows us to separate and prioritize items when we are facing several problems simultaneously. You go more in-depth with analyzing which level of pain has been caused to the organization. Typically, this might include considering the number of people affected, the duration of the downtime caused and the cost to the business.
The Pareto Principle is also known as the “80–20 Rule”. The rule states that 80% of the effects come from only 20% of the problem causes. This rule can be used in Problem Management to target those problems that are causing most of the incidents. So, you can use Pareto Analysis to find a root cause for most common issues. When coupled with the Ishikawa diagram it can be a very powerful tool.
Picture 3. Input vs. Output
Ishikawa Diagram also called fishbone or cause-and-effect diagram is a diagram that shows the causes of a specific event. In this case, it can be a problem. The reason for the failure is represented by the fish “backbone”. The bones of the fish are then populated with the main reasons this could have happened.
Picture 4. Ishikawa Diagram
Five Why Strategy is a simple and effective mechanism to understand the root cause of a problem by asking “why” questions. It is one of the common techniques to identify the root cause of a problem and take appropriate countermeasures to prevent from occurring it once again. However, asking why question five times is just a rule of thumb, and it varies depending on the problem complexity.
Problem management is a key route to quality improvement, although the actual level of taking up and an average maturity of this in many organizations is still relatively low. Forget about using problem management to find temporary solutions. Paired with effective work productivity solutions, they make a strong team.
If you want problem management to deliver real value, then you must build a problem management process that focuses on finding permanent solutions. Only by that, you will be able to substantially reduce the volume of incidents.
Therefore, try out all the mentioned techniques above to find the most suitable one.
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