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Two Ears And One Mouth Is Overrated

June 2, 2015

You have two ears and one mouth so you should listen twice as much as you talk.

We’ve all heard it, right? Probably from your mother or father. Maybe from a spouse or a girlfriend. You have two ears, so you can listen twice as much. 

It’s not true. 

In my job I play a telephone, or a parrot, depending on your perspective. Here’s how a typical service outage will develop.

  1. Something in our system breaks. It might be a failed DNS server so our network requests can’t resolve, or a peripheral gateway might failover and interrupt our existing connections.
  2. Regardless of the issue, when it breaks, our Mission Control folks call me. They con’t call an on-call number. They don’t call a group of people. They call Rodney Bliss’ personal cell phone. 
  3. I gather information from them like how many agents are impacted? Which of the three sites are affected? What error message shows up? When did it start? 
  4. Then, the Mission Control folks call our Service Desk and start a conference call bridge to start gathering the right people to fix the problem. 
  5. While they are doing that, I call our client and report the issue to them and find out if they can offer any insight. 

I’m literally the Man-in-the-middle. Here’s where the process starts to fly in the face of the “two ears” idea. 

I join our internal conference call and I continue calling and talking to our client. I have two phones at my desk; a cell phone and a desk phone. Even at home, I have a work phone. Typically I have the headset on my left ear and the earbud in my right ear. 

Fortunately both have a mute button. Here’s how a typical conversation might go:

CLIENT: Are the agents on the Security Compliance line-of-business also seeing an error?
ME: Let me check

<Mute client line>
<Unmute internal line>

ME: Are the Security Compliance agents seeing an error?
MISSION CONTROL: We’ll check. . .<Radio conversation with the floor>
… Yes, they are getting a file not found error when they click the Azure tool.
ME: Okay, I’ll be right back.

<Mute internal line> 
<Unmute client line>

ME: Yes, the Security team is getting an error in the Azure tool.
CLIENT: Okay, have them try using the Amarillo tool instead and see if that makes a difference.
ME: Okay, just a sec.

<Mute client line>
<Unmute internal line>

ME: Have the secuirty team try using the Amarillo tool instead.
MC: Okay. Hang on. . .<Radio conversation with the floor>
. . .that seems to resolve it, but now they can’t see the client address information.
ME: Okay. I’ll be back.

<Mute internal line>
<Unmute client line>

And so it goes. Sometimes for hours. My longest call was over 500 minutes long. Yes, eight hours on a single call. But, here’s where the advice my mother gave me fails. Most of the time, I can manage the two phones just fine. But, at times both groups start talking to me at the same time. I can generally keep it straight unless I’m actually speaking, but I can’t talk to both at the same time. I really need to be able to talk to two people at the same time. 

And then there are the days we have multiple outages. Typically, two phones work fine, but one particularly bad day, I had two outages running at the same time.

  • Desk Phone: Internal bridge for issue #1
  • Cell Phone: Client bridge for issue #1
  • Business Skype account on my PC: Internal bridge for issue #2
  • Personal Skype account on my iPad: Client bridge for issue #2

I was making it work, and all from my home office. 

And then the client announced:

Rodney, this isn’t going to work.

What do you mean? 

I mean we can’t run outage bridges for both issues at the same time.

Why not?

My team can’t work two issues at once.

Seriously? Probably because they only have one mouth and two ears

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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