Being a data professional you assume a certain amount of responsibility. It often requires having the right attitude and an action plan in place for finding the solutions to our problems at hand. Too many times we attack the symptoms causing the issue, but overlook the root cause. The quick Band-Aid fixes are found many times over, whereas our jobs should be identifying the real issues that lie beneath the symptoms. Now, don’t get me wrong – I understand at times you have to stop the bleeding. In the end though one should uncover the root cause and make the permanent fix.
Prioritize the issue at hand
Chances are you, dear reader, encounter many problems throughout the day. Never try to solve all the problems at one time; instead make them line up for you one by one. Might seem odd but make them stand in a single file line and tackle them one at a time until you’ve knocked them all out. You may not like what you find when uncovering the root cause issues, but that is part of the process. Be careful of this uncovering and be cognizant that what you find with the issues may or may not be the root to all the problems.
Take time and define the problem
In it’s simplest form, take time out and ask yourself this question – “What is the problem?” Sounds easy enough doesn’t it; you’d be amazed by the many accounts of knee jerk reactions data professionals make all over the world. You may be thinking to yourself that there has to be more to it than that. Think about it in four easy steps:
- Ask the right questions – if you only have a vague idea of the situation, then don’t ask general questions. Do not speculate but instead ask process related questions things relating to trends or timing. What transpired over the course of the week that may have led to this issue.
- Talk to the right people – you will face people who inevitably will have the all-knowing and all correct way that things should be done. Heed caution to such as you may find resistant to change and blind spots by these individuals. Creativity is, at times, essential to any problem-solving skill.
- Get the “set in stone” facts – once the facts are all laid out and defined you may find that the decision is pretty concise and clear on action that should be taken.
- Be involved – don’t just let the first three steps define you; get involved in the process of being the solution.
Questions to ask yourself regarding the problem
- Is this a real problem?
- Is it urgent?
- Is the true nature of the problem known?
- Is it specific?
- Are all parties who are competent to discuss the issue involved?
Build a repository
Once you’ve come to the conclusion and provided a solution to the issue – document it. I know I just lost several readers there. Believe it or not documentation will save your bacon at some point. Maybe not next week or next month, but at some point down the line it will. Some things to consider are:
- Were we able to identify the real cause to the problem?
- Did we make the right decision?
- Has the problem been resolved by the fix?
- Have any key people accepted the solution?
I am reminded by a saying I once ran across:
Policies are many, Principles are few, Polices will change, Principles never do
Each day we encounter issues and problems. Don’t let them define you but rather you define the issue. Often times we overlook the root cause; remember to go through your process, policy, and standards in rectifying the problems at hand. It is better to tackle the problems when they are known than to sweep them under the rug for the next data professional to come along and then they are faced with fixing them.
Hopefully this short post will provoke you to think about the issues you deal with on a daily basis and how best to tackle them.