If you can’t solve the problem, you are probably playing by the rules – Why problem management fails

These months I have been working at a customer where there are a lot of network issues. According to ITIL we identified

problems and started looking for the cause and in the end the solution of course.

In the ITIL books several techniques are mentioned to help you with this: Pareto analysis, Kepner and Tregoe etc.

I wonder though if these techniques are really effective.

Now we all know the IT and technology is changing fast. Even faster than some people can keep up with.

Now problem management is mostly based on knowledge. (We even have a whole process for it in ITIL). But knowledge is based on experience. And experience is based on old situations*. (* Paul Arden in “It is not how good you are, it is how good you want to be”). In an ever changing environment this will only help to find part of a solution.


So what to do then? In my opinion we need to bring more creativity to the solving process. Yes, analysis of what went wrong is important. But after that we have to be open minded and find new ways to find the cause, and especially solve the problem.


I Am free – Martijn Bakker


One of the most powerful tools in this process is bringing as much different kind of competencies in one room. So not only technical staff, but also the customer and any stakeholder who can contribute to the solving process. This will help to keep an open mind, and look for new ways to look for solutions.

Second of all a good facilitator is important. Somebody has to lead the process. If you either use brainstorming, why-how laddering, or just a meeting to discuss, someone has to make sure every idea is being valued.

Third of all an open mind is crucial to the process. Not possible, not true, or impossible should be avoided. One of the big issues I see a lot of times is ideas are being pushed away as being silly, ridiculous or untrue. And later in the process they did seem to be the right answer. Again, with a good facilitator these ideas won’t be drowned in negativism.

So do I really say problem management is not working? Well, what I am trying to say is that there is a pitfall to only base your problem solving on knowledge and experiences from the past.

Bring creativity to the process to truly find a good solution for the problem. Cause after all:

If you can’t solve the problem, you are probably playing by the rules.