Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

August 30th, 2023

Brendon Thiede

  • Senior Site Reliability Engineer
  • Complexity Simplifier
  • Toil Eliminator

What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe. It includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking.

"clearly and rationally"

  • Proactive: Diet, exercise, sleep
  • Reactive: Go for a walk, meditate
  • Assume positive intent, examine biases

"reflective and independent"

  • Ask why, then ask why again...
  • Understand constraints
  • Focus on intent (specificity can be a liability)
  • Challenge the status quo

What is a problem?

A problem is a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome.

What is a problem solving technique?

A method or process for solving a problem.

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Define the problem
  3. Explore possible solutions
  4. Choose a solution
  5. Implement the solution
  6. Evaluate the solution

Planning versus Firefighting

  • Planning: proactive, long term solutions
  • Firefighting: reactive, short term solutions

Toyota Kata

Toyota Kata is a structured way of thinking about improvement. It is a way of developing a scientific mindset.

(Checkout Mike Rother - scientific thinking)

Plan, Do, Check, Act

Four-step model for carrying out change. The PDCA cycle should be repeated again and again for continuous improvement.

Incident Response, AKA Firefighting

  • Identify impact & urgency
  • Compartmentalize the system
  • Limit & prioritize focus
  • Systematically drill down
  • Reflect on the process
  • Identify improvement
Learn from failure


Thank you!