Root Cause Analysis

I met Asiri when he joined our hardware support team, the same time I had been inducted into the documents clearing software team. There were around 10 engineers in hardware support and were quite busy with the numerous installations we had in the emirates. Most of them were either on a call with a customer, or driving to a customer site or was already at the site. It was not that they were busy all the time, there were days when most of them were seen in the department, carrying out the process documentation or inspecting faulty equipment in the lab by wearing anti-static aprons or even vetting newly arrived equipment spares at the store. We, the payments software team gelled well with them. Both teams, the hardware and software support, used to rush to assist each other whenever required at various sites. Those days in the late 90’s, Dubai was devoid of much traffic and we could cover Bur Dubai and Deira within a matter of few minutes.

There were times or days when most of the incidents would happen due to hardware glitches and while some clients thought it was a software problem, others blamed it on the equipment. On such occasions, our support departments wore a deserted look. I thought of writing this post today to highlight the ways and means used to uncover the root cause by our engineers especially Asiri also referred to as the ‘Doctor’. Asiri used to wear his anti-static apron more than anybody else and that is how the term ‘Doctor’ stuck to him. One more reason was due to his style of functioning whenever he reached the site. He used to sit or stand patiently beside the faulty document processor, maybe touching it all the time and getting valuable feedback from the customer as to what caused it to malfunction. He would appear as a doctor posing many a question to the client to understand the root cause before he even thought of opening or checking the machine.

One day, a bank called him while he was on the way to office in the morning, saying that one of their document processors was rejecting all the cheques/checks instead of processing them. He thought it could be a sensor failure issue and reached the client in 20 minutes. In Deira Dubai, those days, you might take only 10 minutes to reach but you may need another 10 minutes to find parking for your car. By the time he reached the site, the document processor which was acting weird was now back to its normal self and processing them without any issue. Asiri cleaned the sensors at the reading bay and watched the machine for another 15 minutes and finding nothing unusual came back.

The next day more or less at the same time, another Engineer received a similar incident call from the same bank around 11 am and rushed to central operations and by the time he reached, the machine as earlier had shook off its symptoms and was processing the cheques at its standard speed of 250 documents per minute. He also sat for around 15 minutes and finding nothing unusual left the client. The client also joked saying that when you doctors come, the machine doesn’t show any symptoms. This incident, if memory serves me right was not communicated by the second engineer to Asiri the same day.

The third day, Asiri is in office and waiting for any potential incident to happen and perhaps working on one of the defective document processor in the lab when he got a call again for the same issue. Since the client had a backup machine and it was not a peak volume day for the bank, he took some time to get out of the lab. By the time he reached his car, the client called back again saying the machine was working fine now and he need not come.

Asiri walked back from the parking space to the office and that is when he met the second engineer who told him about the call he made the earlier day to the bank and how he had to come back since there was no problem with the machine when he arrived. “So that means today is the third day, the machine is behaving this way” said Asiri and checked the time. All three incidents were pointing to the time around 11 AM.

The next day, as was his usual wont, Asiri did not wait for the customer to call but made himself present at around 10:30 AM at the site. Fakhruddin who was managing the clearing operations at central operations welcomed Asiri by saying “today nothing will happen since you are here”. Asiri smiled and asked for a chair and got seated with his eyes riveted on the reading bay sensor where each speeding cheque on the track is sensed and stopped. He just sat there looking at the sensor, who he rightly thought was the root of the cause while the minutes ticked away. At around 11 AM, he saw the rays of the sun striking the sensor through the venetian blinds of the cabin, and the sensor along with the machine went haywire as the cheques on the track started getting rejected and Fakhruddin had to stop the machine by pressing the pause button. A smiling Asiri pointed out to Fakhruddin the root cause which was the venetian blind slanting position and moved across and closed them completely. On the way out, he told Fakhruddin, “You won’t face this issue anytime soon unless someone plays with the blinds again“.

NDP 250
NDP 250 Document Processor

Food for thought

The divine Sage was in deep meditation for a few hours and as he got up from his seat, he could sense that his beloved wife had prepared the noon meal. There were a lot of guests who were waiting for that moment when they would be called to partake of the meal after the Sage and his beloved disciple Makarand would have finished their meal. But as usual, Makarand was not to be seen nor he was responding to the call from the Sage’s wife. He fulfils all his duties perfectly but when it comes to having his food we have to call him many times. Shouldn’t he respect the food that is served to him or haven’t you taught him that. Look at the birds and animals waiting patiently for you both to finish the meal so that they can have theirs. I just have to call them once and they will come running to me. You are right devi, I need to teach him this aspect soon. He closed his eyes for a moment, said his prayers and started on his meal. Markand came late just when the Sage was getting up.

A couple, Malhar and Gauri lived in a small town. They were devoted to each other. They didn’t mind sharing food to anyone who came knocking at their door or came calling in the case of animal kind. The wife used to make rotis(flat bread) and some vegetable as her husband was a daily wage worker. Some days he used to get some work, sometimes he returned by lunch time and they would have their tiffin together.

Apart from the poor who visited their homes during lunch time to get a share from their scanty store, there were visitors in the form of a pigeon, a crow and a dog who used to visit by morning. The dog used to get half a roti and the pigeon and the crow, pieces from the other half. After having that, they would disappear. Not all days they used to visit but those days when they didn’t get food elsewhere one or two or all three would be present. The lady was very happy to feed them as if they were her own children. She used to be sad on those occasions where one or more wouldn’t turn up a particular day.

Not one who came to them went empty handed. One day she prepared 5 rotis as the flour had finished and the husband said he would bring it on his way back from work. She packed 2 rotis for him, kept one for herself and one for any guest who might turn up. Another one was for the dog and the birds.

On the way to work, the husband kept one roti back for her or any additional guest who might turn up. If any one so did turn up he very well knew she would give her share and go hungry.

The Sage and his disciple had decided to visit the home of Malhar today. Such visits benefited Makarand and also the host. They entered the house invisibly just in time to find Malhar putting one roti back. The Sage with his divine power added one more roti to the basket and one roti to Malhar’s lunch box. They then came to the door of the house and sat there waiting. Are you waiting for Malhar to leave? asked Makarand. Yes and then we will have some visitors to this house, came the Sage’s reply. They waited patiently. Malhar had left for work a few moments ago. Then one dog appeared at the door gave a small bark calling out for food. Shortly a pigeon flew and landed a few feet away from the dog making a guttural voice. Then there appeared a crow who sat on one of the branches of the guava tree in the courtyard and started calling out for food.

Are these the visitors to this house that you were referring to? Makarand’s question added to the clutter. Yes and we two also will make our presence felt now, replied the Sage. The lady opened the door and found an elderly mendicant and his disciple seeking food at her doorsteps. Her attention also went to the dog and the 2 birds. Today is a blessed day certainly. She went inside to open the food basket when she remembered that there were only three rotis left. It is fine she told herself, I can go without food till my husband comes in the evening.

She opened the basket to see 5 rotis intact there. Why, she had forgotten to put the two rotis in Malhar’s lunch box! Oh, what will he feel when he opens his box during lunch time. She got disturbed but couldn’t remain so for long. There were people waiting for food and she couldn’t keep them waiting. She went out, gave one each to the Sage and his disciple. The leftover roti, she broke in half and gave to the dog. The other half she broke into two made them into small pieces and gave it to the Crow and the pigeon who were crying all the time for food.

Isn’t it strange for these birds and dog to cry so desperately for food when they should wait for her patiently. I am sure she feeds them most of the time they come here..the disciple cut himself short as he saw the lady coming out with another box with the remaining rotis.

Please have your food. I need to go out and search for my husband. He has gone empty handed, she told the guests. Do not worry lady when this dog can help you seek him. Go with him and he will help you find your husband today. Saluting them, she hurried out into the street with the dog running after her. The crow and the pigeon after having their food also flew away.

Now that we are left to ourselves, could you let me know why you chose this house today. The couple so loving and yet they do not have any child. Aren’t they blessed or were they cursed in their previous birth? The lady wasn’t cursed but her curse is working now for her three sons. The lady in her past birth was just like this, doting after her sons and their father. Every day she used to prepare delicious food for the family. But most of the days they didn’t come to her for lunch. They found it worth while to visit many of the houses in the locality or cheap rest houses and found happiness in such food they offered. Even if they were at home she had to call a hundred times for them to have their food on time. Many a day in despair she had muttered to herself that it would have been better preparing food for the animals seeking food at her home.

Now in the present, they go in search of food at various houses and restaurants but most of the time nobody gives them anything and they come here to their mother who always has food for them.

So how have you blessed her by our visit today, asked Makarand. From now on her flour will never get over like it did today and she will have enough rotis in her basket when the situation demands and yes she will have these sons back and obedient in their future birth, replied the Sage. And I think I have learnt something today, said Makarand, I will take my seat on time whenever food is lovingly served by mother…

The delayed train

Once it so happened in 1989 that my mother was coming to Bombay after many years after she had settled in our home town in Thrissur. She was coming by train and in those days it was the Kanyakumari Jayanthi Janatha train that used to ferry people from Kerala to Mumbai. It was a good 36 hour journey. Thanks to the Konkan railway this journey has been cut down to 26 or even less.

The train was to reach Victoria Terminus later renamed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) by 6 am and I was late to reach the station to receive her. Upon arrival, I came to know the train had diverted from its route and would take one more day due to a goods train derailment. In those days, there was no way you could communicate. So I came back the next day at around 9:30 am to the station again. At the station, I came to know that the train was reaching Kalyan and would take one more hour to reach. I had my brother in law in tow this time with me to receive her. The train had a halt at Dadar station before it would slowly wind it’s way into CST Main station.

I was thinking of how my mother would be feeling. Here she was stepping into Mumbai after 5 long years and would be wondering if we would be there at the station to receive her. Moreover she like other passengers in the train would be really tired since the journey was now into its 50th hour. It was then a thought struck my mind. What if I catch up with her and the train at Dadar station during its 2 minute halt there. I knew her compartment and it would take maybe one minute maximum of running around to locate hers. In those days and even now on most express trains, compartments or bogies are not connected internally. In another 30 to 40 minutes, the train would reach Dadar station and without wasting a minute, I told my brother to stay put at CST while I would take a chance to catch the train at Dadar. I quickly booked a ticket and caught a train from the Central railway platform and fancied my chances.

Within 25 mins or so, I got down at Dadar and waited for the Express train which would arrive at another platform in a couple of minutes. As you know the express trains take their sweet time while stopping at a station and therefore by the time it had stopped, I was able to locate the compartment. Dashing inside after the few passengers had got down, I started my search for her at the seats and finally I found her. When she looked up and saw me, I could sense the surprise and wonder in her eyes to see me. How come? was what came up to her lips first. I sat down and reassured her that everything was fine and we would coast together to CST. I had taken only a one way ticket to Dadar. The return journey till the CST platform was a free ride. We caught up with my brother in law waiting at the far end of the station and as we walked towards him, the ticket checker asked us to show our tickets. She showed her ticket and was worried what I would do now. I put my hands into my pocket and fished out my platform ticket which I had purchased at CST an hour ago in my initial plan to receive her…

I thought of posting this just to reiterate that whenever good thoughts come to you to help someone in distress, do not hesitate to take the risk. You would be glad you took it to come out winning at The End.

The treat

Pravin and Raju both had to go to Matunga this week for some purchases. The roasted ground coffee at a wholesale shop had popular reviews so Pravin thought of adding it to his list of items at his shop. Raju used to visit Matunga where he got his medical supplies from a supplier there. So on a Friday, they decided to shut their respective shops and made off to Matunga by train.

On getting down Pravin hurried to Bhimani Street to get his coffee and Raju took a cab to Maheshwari gardens area to place his new orders and hand over his check payments. It was a brisk walk for Pravin across to the shop selling varieties of coffee and with the ground coffee aroma, he thought he would swoon down in ecstasy. He made a few purchases from different varieties the shop had to offer and asked the shopkeeper to pack them up while he would go around the market to fish for other unique South Indian items that were on offer.

Raju luckily was able to place orders, without wasting time on the supplies he needed for his medical shop. He circled the Maheshwari Udyan as he loved walking and soon he was at the Asthika Samaj Temple on Bhandarkar street, went inside and offered his prayers and came out and continued walking towards the Matunga market. He had to find out Pravin fast. They had decided upon the post office as their meeting point exactly two hours after they had parted their ways.

Raju paused as he passed the flower shops on the western side of the street, went into one of the shops that sold meetha paan. Took it and dumped it into his mouth. He loved this paan (sweet betel) from this shop and made it a habit to have one on his monthly visits to the place. Slowly chewing and savoring it, he walked gulping down the contents and was soon at the meeting place where he waited for Pravin near the letter box.

Before long, Pravin walked with two big bags that seemed heavy for him to manage by himself and gave one to the tall and well built Raju. They both walked slowly to the Railway station which was a few hundred metres away. That’s when Raju realised he was hungry and it would be good to visit the Irani restaurant that invited them, a few steps away.

Being a Friday and that too around 11 am there were not many customers in the rickety wooden chairs surrounding a few marble topped tables at the shop. There was some old Hindi song playing on the radio which appeared to be a prized possession of the Irani gentleman sitting at the cashier desk who had a welcome in his eyes as they stepped in. Some part of the shop had the sun streaming its shine and therefore our chaps decided to take position at a table in the shade and below one of the three ceiling fans which to the observant Pravin appeared as old as the gentleman smiling at the desk.

What would you like to have, Raju? asked Pravin as both of them placed the bags down. I would go for a toast omelette with special tea. I would settle for a veg cheese omelette. They placed the order with the serving boy who appeared at their desk from  nowhere. Where was he when we came in? We didn’t notice him, a smiling Pravin asked. Raju looked at the young chap and gave the order and asked him to make it fast, if he wanted a generous tip. He disappeared just as he had appeared, into the kitchen. Pravin tapped his fingers on the table to the music and looked around. Raju was a bit engrossed looking at the medical supplies order copy in his hand.

A poor man walked in, a bit fidgety, placed himself at the far end on the sunny side and drank a cup of water from the water container kept on the table. He took a couple of currency notes and a few coins from his pocket on the table and went through the menu kept on the table. Pravin was watching the person closely now. It appeared there was nothing he could buy except perhaps a cup of plain tea. He went through the menu once again and made quick calculations by looking at his scant store. With moist eyes he placed an order for plain tea and waited for it.

What Raju, you are looking at those order forms and keeping so quiet. It is time to have a small celebration today. What’s the occasion, a gleaming Raju asked. Not because Pravin was a miser but very rarely his grocer friend gave treats. You don’t know? Come on, it is my wedding anniversary he proclaimed as he stood up while making a bit of a show with his hands spread. He walked across to the cashier and loudly said cha-cha today is my wedding anniversary. Mubarak ho beta. What can I do for you? asked the old man at the desk.

Please serve a cream roll and a coconut cake on my behalf to all others sitting here. And yes, a special tea too. The Parsi gentleman looked around. There was only a poor man sipping tea at the other occupied table. Alas! If only a few more customers had come that time of the day, he would have sold more cream roll and cakes!

The value of remaining positive and beating procrastination.

Procrastination does to you mentally what paralysis makes you physically. I agree it is a strong statement, but that is what truly affects most of us, who fall prey to this life debilitating condition. There are times when howsoever positive minded you may be, the events and happenings on a particular day or issue might leave you knocked out. If you do not pay heed to the developing symptoms, it would repel the success that knocks on your door once in a while.

There are so many incidents in our lives if we trace back personal history, where we had got ample opportunities to prove ourselves, but negative thoughts assisted by the procrastination habit had closed doors to potentially successful avenues or ventures.

Imagine getting a call from an old time friend, about a lead in business, but you don’t turn up, or give the lead a call, as mental cobwebs in your thinking force you not to pick up on the lead. You get a call letter for an interview or get selected for a course. You do not turn up for both, and still continue searching for other avenues out of your grasp.

You get a good opportunity to patch up with your colleague or a friend, but you just leave it and lose out on friendship, that could have been revived, had you used that opportunity.

During my work history in the Middle East, I was trying desperately to close a software implementation project in payment systems at a bank, for more than 6 months, but the user was always citing negative examples of how the software had glitches with the payment hardware, and thereby delaying the user acceptance. I had almost given it up, of ever getting the user acceptance.

One fine day, I got a call from a Project Manager from the bank’s side, who had assumed responsibility recently, and was looking at such delayed projects. He asked me, if I could meet him and the user in half an hour time in the payments department. Maybe he was also trying to test our response time. I said – Yes, and put the handset in its cradle.

Procrastination and negative thoughts dormant as they are, in some part of our thinking process, immediately started getting activated and started to weave their cobwebs. But I was out of my office in a minute and hailed a cabbie before they could get hold of me and force me not to go. The rest of the story as they say is history, as the PM asked the user in my presence, as to how much of his time was lost in what he referred to as software glitches. These were in fact hardware timeouts, where we had provided a software solution springing the machine back in no less than 5 secs. He asked him, how many such timeouts happened in his cheque clearing time of 4 hours. Maybe, 2 or 3 times,he said, now on the defensive and sounding meek. The PM requested him “Ok, can you sign the acceptance form, if you have no other issues?” in a tone that had a air of loaded machine guns.

This example just shows how we can beat procrastination by immediate action and the DO IT NOW principle, so very well illustrated in the book by Napolean Hill and Clement Stone – Success with a Positive Mental Attitude, link of which is pasted below for your convenience.

http://books.google.co.in/books?id=NA1vDgWzAsIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=napoleon+hill&hl=en&sa=X&ei=G1sxUp7rCsbJrAf1gYGQDw&ved=0CEwQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=napoleon%20hill&f=false.

Living by the Word

It has been 8 years with WordPress and am thankful to WP for providing me a great  platform and the best followers to cheer me up!

The chill with the winter is here, the holidays are back
time to go on a shopping spree and what would you like
now that good old Christmas is here, make a choice
would you buy a red robe, collar and cuffs this time
and indulge in presents for many a kid on the street
to whom Santa is a dream that you would like to fulfill?

Common Picture Wing

This is a dragonfly that is usually found near marshes, ponds, lakes or paddy fields in South Asia. It is also one dragonfly that I have heard several people mistaking for butterflies. I guess it is owing to their slow or weak flight, unlike the “usual” pattern of other dragonflies. The scientific name for the […]

Common Picture Wing

A Morning Ritual

There is a small garden where there are a few saplings to be planted. A fertilizer bag remains untouched for more than a month now after its arrival. There is a spade glistening in the early morning sun. You are at your lethargic best, though not to be blamed as the situation is like that. Nobody wants to venture out as everything has become virtual. In fact everyone wants you to be at home. All establishments unlike of old times, do not want you at their door step. So travel has cut down and that can be seen while you measure yourselves at the navel.

Now, let us do this. Imagine the following. Take the spade, dig the ground at multiple places to plant the saplings, put some fertilizer from the bag, put back the mud around the plants. Amble across to the tap, switch it on, take the water pipe and water the plants that are newly planted and the others. Give an occasional spray at the chirping sparrows and other birds who hover around the pools to take a quick drink or a bath as is their custom. Now that you have read this, close your eyes and do the above activity imagining each and every detail.

If you enjoyed doing this virtual activity, either repeat it daily morning, or take it offline by running to the nearby nursery to get a few saplings and plant them in real at your place, and repeat the watering and fertilizer activities daily.