We are about launch our latest feature to the eager public, when suddenly we get the call all developers dread: The Site is down! Our business is pressuring us to quickly come back up, but we can’t even find the problem! We pick up the red phone and call Karen, "The Site Whisperer." She calmly spends five minutes typing, and announces that she found the problem, and everything is back to normal. Where would we be without Karen? How can we get these skills on the rest of the team, so anyone can work the magic she does?

It turns out that troubleshooting is a learnable skill. Join Shawn as he explores the Science of Troubleshooting. This workshop will examine what is happening during effective problem solving. It will examine types of scientific reasoning, and explore how we are using them to solve problems, sometimes without even realizing what we are doing! Participants will see how, by using scientific reasoning and experiments to build and test hypotheses, they can greatly increase the effectiveness of their troubleshooting and debugging. By making the process explicit even consummate problem solvers can improve how they approach and solve problems. Using the awareness gained attendees can guide others to improve their problem-solving skills.

 
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Outline/structure of the Session

This workshop arose from the observation that some people were much better at solving technical problems than others, and it didn’t always seem to be correlated to knowledge or experience. I analyzed the activities that were taking place, and realized that the best problem solvers were using scientific reasoning and experiments to build and test hypotheses about the problems, greatly increasing the effectiveness of their learning. We found that by teaching these concepts and being explicit about the process, people were able to improve their own problem-solving skills.

In this workshop we explore the Scientific Method, and its use during problem solving. We look at the three approaches to scientific reasoning (deductive, inductive, and abductive). We show how the scientific method is used to incrementally build an internal model of the problem, in order to approach a solution. We present problems to the group to show how the scientific method can be used to find a solution.

As a 60 minute session, this session will likely run like this:

0:00 Introduction

0:03 A Story - “How Time Pressure Made a Team Lose Its Marbles.” A story about a disastrous problem-solving experience, this stories illustrates how failure to apply scientific reasoning can derail attempts to solve problems

0:10 The three types of scientific reasoning.

0:15 Attendees evaluate scenarios to see what type of reasoning was used. Pair paper exercise. Debrief.

0:25 We discuss the process of learning through scientific reasoning and experimentation. We discuss how to frame the problem and how to form hypotheses and use small experiments to learn about the system we are exploring.

0:35 In groups people will work on troubleshooting problems given them (or they can choose their own). They will form hypotheses and develop experiments to solve the problem.

0:50 What are we talking about when we say problem-solving? It turns out that this approach can be used for more than just troubleshooting. We explore this model as how it can be used for debugging, design sessions, continuous improvement, etc. We also show that this is a valid approach at the individual, team or even organizational level. We compare to other improvement frameworks like Kanban, Toyota Kata and A3. We discuss the limits of this approach, and caution against overreliance on reductionism.

0:60 end

This session could also be done as a 40 minute session, by removing the scientific reasoning exercise.

This session was presented at Agile 2016 in Atlanta and received an average rating of 4.3/5.

Learning Outcome

  • Understanding types of scientific reasoning
  • A useful model for the process of troubleshooting to help you improve your skills
  • Language and practices that can be used with your team to help them gain these skills

Target Audience

Developers, Devops, Operations, Testers

Prerequisite

none

schedule Submitted 3 months ago

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