As a former head of IT security running close to 350 security devices worldwide for DHL, I think I have a pretty good grasp of problem solving skills. We used to deal with tens of incident tickets coming in. Tens of tickets might lead to fewer problems, but this doesn’t mean it gets easier. Problems might end up being just symptoms of a bigger issue. The list goes on. Having passed the ITIL cert, I was curious on how we could better manage problem resolution. Incident resolution I get it. Just get the service up and running either through a workaround or resolving the underlying problem. The former is what I now know as the ‘sweet spot’, distinct compromises that has an improvement and a worsening factor. The latter is problem management, which I haven’t done too well. Try having half of China yelling into your ear to get those F5 BigIP load balancers to work properly so that delivery planes are cleared to take off, or face a multi million of USD loss per hour.

I would venture to say all incidents should be dealt with to get the service up, but should also lead to a more methodical problem management, to solve the underlying issue so that it does NOT happen again.

Over the weekend, I attended an intriguing course by a reknowned practitioner of TRIZ, who worked with Intel.TRIZ is a russian acronym, and stands for Theory of Inventive Problem Solving. I hear some of you going, “Wait, that’s TIPS.” OK, TRIZ stands for teoriya resheniya izobretatelskikh zadatch, which in Russian, means “Don’t-try-to-pronounce-it-and-destroy-our-mother-tongue” to most of us. In fact the real writing is in russian script, which, to decipher it, would probably take me about the same time to be fluent in Middle-Earth Elvish.

But that aside, TRIZ is actually a very interesting way to look at problem resolution. It’s a concept supported by its own tools to look into a problem in an inventive manner. Meaning, we’re here to resolve contradictions. For instance, to solve my computer’s performance, I increase the CPU, but with that, I need to improve my cooling fan. That’s a contradiction. When something gets better, something else gets worse. Immediately, you’d think, why not spend extra money and buy a bigger cooling fan? Using TRIZ however, it does away with experiential learning and simply breaks down the function, understand the cause and effect, and trim away areas that are not relevant, until it comes up with a specific “Inventive Principle” to address the problem. In this case, it might just be putting the computer inside your data center with special external cooling, as opposed to under your desk, stacked with moldy papers.

One of the idea of TRIZ is to break down the problem into functions and identify worsening and improving parameters based on 39 Systems Parameters. Then, using the contradiction matrix, identify among the 40 Inventive Principles how to resolve these. The philosophy of the 40 principles is taken from  thousands of patents, and how they address our needs. Apparently this is a conclusive list, and hasn’t changed since the 60s. That’s a pretty steady list.

After intensive training, we sat for the TRIZ certification exams and passed. So, PKF becomes the first management advisory firm with TRIZ certified people in it. A lot of it makes sense to me, as we always used to approach a problem in either a novel way or use our previous experience with the problem to address it. Both might or might not work, but with TRIZ, at least the alternatives are better mapped out.

Read it up in this WIKI, it’s quite an interesting concept; the world according to TRIZ!