mike brockington (4/2/2009)
Interesting analogy, but I'm afraid that is simply isn't true.
Recent studies have shown that well trained personnel (I think it was Incident Controller, aka Lead Fireman specifically) simply do not run all the possibilities in an emergency situation, they just look and act. The training allows them to adjust procedures as the reality of the situation emerges. The key thing being that they can never have any significant understanding of the problem domain in advance, only of the tools at their disposal. In tech support, the reverse is more often true: people know how to configure devices, but only use the diagnostic tools when they need to, and therefore only ever learn the bits that they have used so far.
Hey Mike - That is an interesting point and I guess I am slightly confused. You are right, not all possibilities get run through at a structure fire or car accident. I agree about the lack of significant domain knowledge though. In the firefighting/ambulance world, every call is different and we have been trained for a general domain knowledge of the potential problems but each one is a bit different. We apply the same pattern to the problems though. At least I do. I think through all of the potential scenarios when responding to a house fire or medical call or even a more common fire alarm activation call (bells and smells). I think through the potentials that could happen, as I approach I look for signs that lead towards a scenario, I plan for the worst case (throw my air pack on my back even if it's the 17th alarm call there this week, have my gear situated properly). You are right it does come down a lot to training on both the fire and ems side. On the ambulance call though we are thinking of the big picture and trying to proactively use a rule-out methodology to rule things out. I said differential diagnosis and perhaps that is a bit arrogant (we are certainly not doctors or nurses) but it is close to what we do. We go to our training, look at all of the information, make a decision that this is the general area of problem and treat that problem while transporting. If signs and symptoms change we go to our training and knowledge to redirect treatment. That isn't looking and acting though. Show up to a "working code" (a patient unresponsive, not breathing and pulseless) and it is a look and act situation.
In technology we have occasions where we may have to do a look and act that relies on training (server is frozen, can't access any tools to gather more information, can't connect easily.. reboot). A lot more situations where we want to analyze, use a methodology and form a "differential diagnosis" of the issue at hand.
As for the only using what you know when you troubleshoot technology. Sure that makes a lot of sense but that is why training and familiarization, disaster drills, etc. come in handy. To develop some of that "muscle memory" to learn about the tools you may need to use under stress. The focus in technology on training is far lower than that in the emergency services which I guess makes sense.
I like your viewpoint and it makes me think about a lot 🙂 Should we do more training/drilling in technology? I think so but how much more? How much will it cost (time, resources, lack of attention towards reactive tasks and user requests) and what's the likelihood we'll ever need it? In Fire/EMS it's an easy decision, if you don't train lives could be lost, there is a LOT of downtime between calls and you are getting hit with such a variety.
I still like my analogy on the medical side as it brings out the steps that work on both an ambulance call (at least it has for me, on both trauma and medical emergencies) and most other areas of life. There are a lot of places (like the fire example) where that methodology is not used and I never really thought of it like that 🙂