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General Thoughts

Communication VS Troubleshooting: A Balance

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Too many times, I’ve heard the phrase, “I can’t update you right now. I’m too busy fixing the problem”. Have you ever heard that statement? Maybe you have used that statement yourself? There is a balance between “updating on a problem” and “fixing the problem”, and one does not justify excusing the other. But, it’s not an exact science either. You can have both, but the art is identifying how to do it.

Keep in mind, that this is NOT to excuse you from how you handle updates to your manager. If you already have a process, obviously you have to do it. However, if you don’t, this is my advice.

You always have time

I’m in the unique position where I am both a manager and a technician. When I say “unique”, that’s not to say it doesn’t happen. This is becoming more commonplace. But, I use the term “unique”, as there are still alot of manager’s out there that solely depend on their team. Because of this ‘blending’ of roles, I respect and acknowledge the pressure and stresses a technician has when trying to fix a big problem. Everyone is looking to you to fix it. And the longer it’s down, the more people are looking at you. The more people are looking to you, the more you push yourself to fix it. Anything that doesn’t help with fixing it, is a waste of time. But, what I’m saying is “Not true”. You always have time. You just have to be efficient in how you use it.

1–30–30

Here is my philosophy. 1–30–30. That’s all the time you need. The first moment (1) that you know the problem, take thirty seconds (30) and give an update to your manager. An email… a text message… maybe a phone call. They really only need 3 pieces of information. “What happened… What’s affected… What are you doing about it”. After that, give them the same update every thirty (30) minutes. So, that’s the 1–30–30. Simple and effective.

Example time.  Let’s say you have a network switch that’s down, and it’s affected some users.  You have no idea why yet, but you know it’s not working right.  Then the update might be “We have a switch down in Wiring Closet #4.  So far, only about 10% of the users in the wing are affected.  All data and voice is down.  Looking at it now.  Let you know shortly”.  What happened?  A switch is down.  What’s affected?  Some (but not all) users in the wing.  What are you doing about it?  You are looking into it.

Another example would be a mail server being down.  It’s 1 server in 4 that’s not responding.  You update could be: “We have a mail server that’s not responding.  25% of all email users can’t access email.  Looking at it now.  Will let you know something shortly”.  What happened?  A server isn’t responding.  What’s affected?  1 out of 4 mailboxes (25%).  What are you doing about it?  Looking at it.

Make your boss look good

Your manager is probably no fool. They did not get where they are today, without knowing that problems happen, and it takes time to fix them. But, what you can do is make your boss look good, by giving him constant but quick updates. That way, when upper-management is looking for answers, you don’t have to get interrupted/bombarded with questions and your boss can update everyone else, giving you more time to focus on the problem. When your boss looks good, then you look good.

Does anyone else have any clever ideologies they follow for quick and efficient updates?

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About the author / 

Aaron Paxson

Aaron is a network engineer and global systems manager for a global sewing machine company. His primary passion is in network systems and network management systems, though, his attention is usually distracted by other shiny new technologies. He loves programming in Java and Python to help out in his activities. His personal hobbies, when NOT doing tech, include Aquaria, WoodWorking, and Wine Making.

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