Preparation and practice: problem solving

Pilots practice solving problems under pressure. They practice things going wrong, unpredictably. Sometimes they practice several things going wrong together – or one after another. And, they are assessed on how well they handle the situation. 

This is an important part of the continual training that pilots undergo: practicing how to identify a problem quickly and deciding how to handle it.  

In this article we go over a different perspective on identifying problems, problem solving, stress management and cyber scenario-based training. 

Identification and triage 

The point of this training is only partially to learn what to do if something (let’s call it X) goes wrong.  

Part of the training is about identifying the likely underlying problem, and therefore how urgently it needs to be fixed:  

  • X may be a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself, so trying to fix X might not be the right approach. A fix for the symptom might hide the underlying problem, which could reappear in a more urgent need of a solution. 
  • In some cases, X will require an urgent fix, whether it is the fundamental problem or not, so you might need to fix it while also trying to identify the real issue. 
  • Sometimes fixing X immediately doesn’t matter, because the plane will continue to fly, unaffected by whatever is behaving oddly. It can wait, and be fixed in a safer environment later. 
  • And X might cause another, related problem, Y, which might give you more information about the real cause of X and Y.  

It’s not possible to prepare for every single X that might go wrong, but practicing a number of different scenarios will definitely help. Sometimes, an X problem might happen for real, and if you happen to have practiced that exact scenario, that’s great, but you can’t expect to have practiced every permutation of everything that could possibly go wrong.  

Practicing still matters though, and this is why… 

Problem solving and stress management 

The other point of the training is that those who have practiced responding to problems will have developed two key skills: 

  • Problem solving skills – using experience and rationality to make risk-based decisions: 
    • Knowing where to look for information (maybe documentation) 
    • Knowing what questions to ask (maybe a checklist) 
    • Knowing what steps to take (maybe a playbook) 
    • Using prior experience (last time this happened it was due to…) 
  • Stress management – handling the physical and emotional aspect of having to handle the problem, and recognising how to handle yourself (and maybe others) in a stressful situation: 
    • Knowing how the situation feels when you are in it 
    • Knowing how you react to stress (people react in different ways) 
    • Knowing some techniques for managing your own stress 
    • Knowing some ways to manage the stress of others (at least enough to enable you to carry out your analysis of what to do) 

    Scenario-based training in cyber 

    Unsurprisingly, while not such a life-and-death situation, doing the same kind of training in the cyber security world, is also important.  

    If your business systems experience a problem – whether this is caused by some malicious behaviour, or not – the amount of practice your team has had in dealing with this, will affect the efficiency and effectiveness of their response. Both in handling the problem itself, and in handling their reactions to the stress of the situation. 

    Preparation and practice matter. We recommend that you:  

    • Identify the most likely potential problems that could occur in your environment. 
    • Work out which would have the most impact. 
    • Put in place that documentation, those checklists and that playbook in advance of needing them. Know where to find information, and what steps to go through. 
    • And practice going through the process of finding and resolving the problem. 
    • If the plans and preparatory documents weren’t quite right, or had gaps, that’s good to know: Fix them, so you’ll do better next time. 

    If you’d like help in planning and preparation, or in running table-top exercises to practice responding to problems, call us on 0113 733 6230 or use our web-form to send us a message.