What To Do with Unsolvable Problems

Solving problems can be a very rewarding job. Few things beat the feeling of accomplishment after getting rid of a particularly nasty problem, causing lots of incidents over a long period of time. There are times, however, when countless hours spent on analysis seem to go to waste. Either you do not have a solution, or you have it, but it is unlikely it will ever be implemented.

Such situations can happen if a problem of low impact for example. Few incidents that happen do not warrant continuation of analysis due to costs involved. Another example would be a problem turned to known error -- with identified root cause and a workaround. It could potentially stay that way for a long time if the workaround is cheap to implement and sustain and the permanent solution - expensive.

So what to do with your problems? You do not want your Problem Management KPIs to start degrading by keeping the problem open of too long. There are a couple of ways to handle it. One way, which I personally do not prefer, is to close the problem. Some organizations do it, but I feel it is like swiping your dust under the carpet. The problem does not disappear because you close it. You just lose visibility of it.

Another approach would be to keep the problem open. This way you have the visibility, but the issue is, that you will continue to come back to this problem much too often. You will get frustrated with your lack of ability to resolve it. You will also get frustrated that it influences your KPIs and you have to explain why that is on every single meeting with the management.

So, there is a third way. Create an additional status for problems which are not resolved, but which you deliberately have stopped working on. Call it a "dead end" for example. This way, you clearly differentiate between solved problems and those "put in the fridge". You may choose to revisit your hibernated problems in half a year, or even later. You will have an easy way of filtering them out from the rest. You will also be able to exclude the dead-end problems from your ongoing reporting of problems in progress.

I have applied this approach successfully on a number of occasions. Let me know how it works in your environment. It may be a nice way out of this little predicament.


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