A new version of my Universal Troubleshooting Guide is now available (version 8). I’ve used the questions in a variety of problem-solving situations and recorded feedback from people solving real issues. The language has been tightened up, some questions have been dropped, and others added. Some of the updated queries:
- “Is the problem clearly defined?”: this needs to be addressed early on, so I put it high up in the “Basics” column. Sometimes the issue at hand is obvious, but when it’s not I’ve seen a lot of flailing about. How the problem is framed often implies the needed remedial action, so errors at this stage will propagate throughout the entire process. Especially when dealing with very complex systems, problem identification can be the hardest part, but taking the time to understand what is actually wrong means that your fix-it efforts will be addressing something real.
- “Is everyone who might know the answer aware of the issue?”: the solution often lies within your own organization, if you bother to ask.
- “Should I clarify or add detail to problem reports?”: put on your deerstalker and become a language detective, as detailed in my series on Skillful Questioning.
- “Is this my problem to solve? Is a co-worker, business partner, manufacturer, or vendor avoiding responsibility?”: I’ve seen situations where someone has taken on a troubleshooting project without first considering who should be obligated to fix the problem. Especially if you repair things on behalf of others, the best use of your time and resources might be to put that wrench down and call the responsible party to account.