the blog of Brandon Gandy

Category: The Problem Solver Series

An Iterative Approach to Problem Solving, Part 1

I’ve always been a fairly methodical person. As evidenced by this blog, I have a tendency of breaking down things I tend to take for granted and examining their constituent parts, then creating systems around them to ensure consistent results. I mean, that’s the whole point of this problem solving series.

The path from finding a problem to finding its solution can sometimes be obscured by assumptions, vague wording, and misunderstandings. What follows is the first part of an iterative approach to clearing the path before you set out on it, so your journey to the solution is unobstructed and free from distraction.

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How To Be Super Effective Using Daily Personal Notes

The majority of my time spent in Support, I was one of two people on a team. The software we supported had a fairly large suite of tools, covering a wide range of business cases, each with unique and specific logic behind them. If something wasn’t working correctly, it often wasn’t a clear-cut problem. Was it broken completely, or just off a little bit? Were we missing data? Was the design wrong?

Chances were, if we couldn’t resolve the issue right then and there on the phone, then it would turn into a research project. It involved collaborating with the customer’s business team (and, often, the IT team), our own developers, and each other.

Being a small team, we often had a great many open tickets at once that required us to spend time researching, following up, and writing documentation. Even so, I was able to always deliver on time. Partially, this was done by managing expectations (something I will be writing a couple of posts on, most likely). But what helped me the most in succeeding was my notes.

Taking an extensive and detailed set of notes every day helped me keep on top of my tasks more than any other software tool I could use. It helped me stay on time. I was able to keep anything from ever falling through the cracks. I always made sure my tickets — both bug reports and enhancement requests — were thoroughly detailed. Even today, having been away from Support for years, I still do this.

The best part of all was it required almost zero effort to maintain. How? I’ll show you.

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The Importance of “Why?” in Troubleshooting

There are two types of troubleshooters I’ve met.

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The Secret to Superstar Time Management

We’ve all seen the bits in TV shows or movies where a character has two dozen things they need to do and they’re shuffling them all and doing everything wrong and all of a sudden their countless spinning plates come crashing down in a heap. We’ve probably all been right there in those shoes.

This is about how to keep those plates up and even spinning of their own accord. How to make your time work for you.

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How to Write a Good Bug Report

The ability to write a good bug report is so much more important than the bug report itself.

More often than not, a shoddy bug report is going to get closed offhand, despite the validity of the bug itself. Most developers don’t have the time to parse through and guess at what the report actually means, and they certainly don’t have the ability to “fix” something if they don’t know what it is they’re fixing. This is especially true if you ever try to open an issue with an open source project — for better or for worse.

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How to Solve a Problem: The OSI Model

Years ago, I lived in a small military town attached to a naval base. There were few ways for a civilian like myself to become employed on base, and the first one I latched onto was to get some sort of IT certification. I was good with computers, and I knew I wanted to work with them. So I looked up some certs, picked a few, got the books, and got to studying.

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Tech Support, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Solve the Problem

I believe that, given any type of technical problem, there exists a finite and achievable set of actions you can perform to find the root cause of a problem. From there, you can eliminate or improve that problem.

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