Troubleshooters.Com Presents

Troubleshooting Professional Magazine

Volume 10 Issue 1, Winter, 2006
  Troubleshooting: What's In It For Me?
Copyright (C) 2006 by Steve Litt. All rights reserved. Materials from guest authors copyrighted by them and licensed for perpetual use to Troubleshooting Professional Magazine. All rights reserved to the copyright holder, except for items specifically marked otherwise (certain free software source code, GNU/GPL, etc.). All material herein provided "As-Is". User assumes all risk and responsibility for any outcome.

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“I resolved right then to dedicate the rest of my selling career to this principle: Finding out what people want, and helping them get it." -- Frank Bettger (in the book "How I raised myself from failure to Success in Selling".


Editor's Desk

By Steve Litt
"Steve, if you do a good job we'll give you more responsibility."

That's how my boss tried to incentivize me in 1975. He'll give me more responsibility. Not more money. Not more excitement. Not more power over my own work life. Not less stress. Not a more flexible schedule.

More responsibility.

Thanks, but no thanks boss man.

For the three years I remained at that company, I slid by with the minimum amount of work, never getting the "more responsibility" offered as a carrot. My boss though me lazy.

Within 7 years I had my own business, where I had responsibility over every stereo repaired, every part ordered, every dollar earned, and every dollar spent. I had responsibility, but that was a by product. What was in it for me was a reasonably fun job and complete control over my job and my life.

Today, my business has taught tens or hundreds of thousand people to troubleshoot. I'm responsible for that. Google has my pages as #1 for "troubleshooting process", "system independent troubleshooting", and first page for "systematic troubleshooting". My old boss would be amazed at his "lazy employee".

He shouldn't be. An employee can't be motivated by "responsibility" or "for the good of the organization". The employee can't be motivated by "an opportunity to become more entrapeneurial" unless it's really true, implying the employee has major control over his or her pay. And speaking of pay, if you want to demotivate an employee, be sure to call pay "compensation". Like he's being compensated for something lost. Work can be a joy -- I know, I've had joyful work both as a business owner and as an employee. In those circumstances I wasn't compensated for something I lost, I was paid for something that would have brought me joy without the money.

This issue of Troubleshooting Professional Magazine details what's in it for YOU to troubleshoot better. Not what's in it for your boss, or the customer, or the stockholders, or the organization, or the "team". What's in it for YOU.

There's plenty in it for you, as you'll see in this month's TPM issue. So kick back, relax, and read how better troubleshooting benefits you, personally. And remember, if you're a Troubleshooter, this is your magazine.
Steve Litt is the author of Twenty Eight Tales of Troubleshooting.  You can email Steve here.

What's in it for You: The Short Answer

By Steve Litt
Money, power and fame. Happiness and improved social and family life. Organizational success. These are the benefits accruing to the expert Troubleshooter, or the manager whose people troubleshoot quickly and accurately.

Don't believe me? Read on...
Steve Litt is the creator of the Universal Troubleshooting Process. You can email Steve here.


By Steve Litt
I developed the Universal Troubleshooting Process while repairing stereo equipment on a commission basis. Using the UTP (such as it was in 1979), I doubled my productivity, and therefore doubled my paycheck, in 9 months. That almost certainly won't happen to you...

Few people work on commission these days. Even in sales, the use of commission is decreasing. You get a constant salary that's reviewed once a year. In your yearly review, the company evaluates your productivity, the marketplace, and the likelihood that you'll jump ship for more money, all within the confines of company policy, which usually limit salary increases to less than 10%, regardless of performance. In many companies new hires are paid more than seasoned veterans. No wonder companies frown on employees discussing their salaries.

What excellent troubleshooting productivity does for you is give you an edge, year after year, over your competitors in the marketplace. As an excellent Troubleshooter, you'll be seen as a capable and valuable employee, receiving more promotion opportunities, obtaining better raises and avoiding layoffs than you otherwise would.

For instance, take employees Al and Bob. Both make $50,000.00 in year 1. Both are quite capable, although Bob is a much more productive troubleshooter. Al receives a 4% raise per year, while Bob receives a 6% raise per year because his troubleshooting success makes him look smarter and more capable. At year 10, Al's salary is $71,165.59, while Bob gets $84,473.95. That's more than a $13,000.00 premium for excellent troubleshooting. But wait -- there's more.

In year 5 there's a recession. Al gets laid off and slides back to $50,000.00 on his next job. Being able to solve problems, Bob is promoted in the leaner and meaner organization, and receives a 15% raise instead of his usual 6%. Before and after year 5, Al and Bob get their usual raises. In year 10, Al's salary is $60832.65 while Bob's making $91646.26. Over $30,000 more. Over 50% more. This is the monetary power of troubleshooting productivity.

But wait, there's more -- the part your boss doesn't want you to read. Loyalty is no longer a part of the job market. Employees have no loyalty to their employers -- a fact that was rudely rammed down management's throat in the 1998-1999 tech boom. Employers have no loyalty to their employees -- think Enron. Or use google to search for recent occurrence of the word "layoff", or look at the We've discussed the monetary reward for a technologist. What if you're a manager?

If your department troubleshoots effectively, they'll solve problems quickly. You'll be considered a good manager. On the other hand, if every technical problem causes your crew to twist in the wind, that will be noticed in a different way. The effects of better raises, promotions and layoffs over a period of years are math that apply to any employee. Unless your team consistently solves technical problems quickly and accurately, it's in your financial best interest to make sure they learn troubleshooting.

Once again, unless you're paid on commission, your pay doesn't increase the instant you increase in troubleshooting productivity. Instead, your pay builds year after year.
Steve Litt is the author of Troubleshooting Techniques of the Successful Technologist.  You can email Steve here.


By Steve Litt
I once saw a rather new and low level employee use bottleneck analysis to determine that the main company computer's bottleneck was its processor. This computer served about 200 employees. One night when everyone was gone, he borrowed a faster processor from the hardware vendor, and installed it. The next day everyone raved about the computer's speed and how easy it the speed increase made their work. Rank and file employees noticed it. Upper management noticed it and paid for the processor immediately. A couple months later this guy was promoted to upper management and put in charge of all software development, leapfrogging several people who were ahead of him.

When you quickly and accurately solve technical problems, others think you're a genius. They don't realize you're using a simple process anyone can use. They turn to you for leadership.

When you quickly and accurately solve technical problems, people like you. You fixed their problem. You helped them. While others invent excuses and blame the victim, you just do your job and help them. As co-workers see you as smart and likeable, they turn to you for leadership. Management notices, and you get power.

When you use the Universal Troubleshooting Process, you know your superior troubleshooting productivity is due to following a process. But to others, it looks like competence, ability, intelligence, and leadership.
Steve Litt is the author of the Universal Troubleshooting Process Courseware.  Steve can be reached at Steve Litt's email address.


By Steve Litt
"Here comes the cavalry!"

Those words were spoken by a former client's network director when I walked in the room. I'd been called back to fix everything after a programmer had left, and left behind several software bugs. They called me to fix the bugs. After all, I was famous for always getting my bug. I was known throughout the company as a truly great Troubleshooter.

"Here comes the cavalry!" If that isn't fame, I don't know what is.

Your fame will extend well beyond that of a great Troubleshooter, because so few people are truly aware of the importance of process oriented troubleshooting. When you use the Universal Troubleshooting Process to repeatedly solve technical problems, your boss and co-workers won't say "Wow, he's really great at the Universal Troubleshooting Process!". No, they'll say "Wow he's smart!" You'll be famous as a genius.
Steve Litt is the author of Twenty Eight Tales of Troubleshooting. You can email Steve here.


By Steve Litt
What makes you happy?

Tough question. Maybe the best answer is to work backwards. What makes you unhappy?

How about never being "good enough" at your job? Or never having enough time to complete your job? Because of its efficiency, the Universal Troubleshooting Process gives you more time to complete your work. Because of its accuracy, you do a better job.

When it comes to unhappiness, how about leaving work so exhausted that you have no energy for friends, family, socializing, hobbies or exercise? Because the Universal Troubleshooting Process substitutes a checklist for much of troubleshooting's heavy lifting, you leave work with energy to spare.

How do you like stress? Is it fun when the boss breaths down your neck, micromanaging, asking for hourly updates, and criticizing? How about co-workers calling every 30 seconds demanding to know when it will be fixed? Is it pleasant when you discover, after several hours or days of troubleshooting, that you'd gone completely down the wrong path? How about when a co-worker discovered that fact for you?

How does it feel when co-workers mock and belittle you? It starts behind your back, then you hear about it through the grapevine, and finally, when they become frustrated enough, mock you to your face. Frustrated people can be incredibly cruel.

So far, this article has described the life of all too many technologists. We live in a high stress, tight deadlined, challenging environment, and few co-workers are tolerant of mistakes, delays, or even normal troubleshooting. The route to happiness is to eliminate what is described so far in this article. One way is through enhanced troubleshooting.

The process oriented Troubleshooter works faster. She's more consistent with regard to repair time and repair accuracy, so co-workers know what to expect and bosses can plan. She involves users so they understand what is being done and contribute valuable information. She is perceived as smarter and more industrious. People like her. They thank her. They compliment her. They help her. They keep her in the loop. Her work is more fun.

Because few problems turn into catastrophes on her watch, she works less hours and uses less mental exertion on the job. She leaves work happier, more refreshed, and ready to have a life.
Steve Litt is the author of Manager's Guide to Technical Troubleshooting .You can email Steve here.

Improved Social and Family Life

By Steve Litt
This month's magazine has already alluded to the mechanism by which you can improve your social and family life with more effective troublethooting. The Ninja Troubleshooter leaves work refreshed and ready for family and friends. The less effective Troubleshooter leaves work frazzled, ready for sleep, a date with the bottle, or an argument with a friend or loved one.
Steve Litt is the author of Samba Unleashed. You can email Steve here.

Organizational Success

By Steve Litt
Once again, we've already alluded to the mechanism. The Ninja Troubleshooter is perceived as smart, hard working, friendly, and competent.  Exactly the type of person others ask for advice and follow. Exactly the type of person who gets promoted to manager.

But maybe you don't want to be a manager. Maybe you like writing code, not planning who should write which code. That's no problem -- your ability to quickly and accurately solve technical problems makes you a good person to have around, and therefore a bad person to lay off, undercompensate or ignore. If your job requires any kind of design work, enhanced troubleshooting process will make you even more productive, because debugging is an integral part of any design work.
Steve Litt is the author of Troubleshooting Techniques of the Successful Technologist. You can email Steve here.

Where Do I Go From Here?

Now that you know the value of enhanced troubleshooting, one question remains -- "how do I learn to be a Ninja Troubleshooter?"

Before 1996 the answer was pretty much "learn it in the school of hard knocks". Sure, there were a few companies giving "troubleshooting classes", but most were either generic problem solving techniques slow as molassis in technology, or yet another class on the system under repair and the tools used to diagnose or repair it.

From 1996 to 2005 the answer was either "get your boss to order Troubleshooters.Com's Universal Troubleshooting Courseware", or "read Troubleshooting Techniques of the Successful Technologist yourself." The former cost money many companies don't want to part with, and the latter required a significant committment because the book is very advanced. An improvement, but I decided to do better, and wrote two new books in the past year.

Now anyone can choose an easy and economical learning track. For the technologist wanting a quick intro to the Universal Troubleshooting Process, we now offer Twenty Eight Tales of Troubleshooting. It's an easy and entertaining read consisting of 28 short stories, in which the reader learns right alongside the character. It's probably a 3 night read at a comfortable pace.

For the manager we now offer Manager's Guide to Technical Troubleshooting. This book offers just enough explanation for the manager to make decisions about troubleshooting training and policy, and then discusses how to boost department or organization efficiency with the Universal Troubleshooting Process.

Armed with the knowledge from either of these books, the technologist or manager wanting to become an authority on troubleshooting can read Troubleshooting Techniques of the Successful Technologist.

So where you go from here is simple. Read either Twenty Eight Tales of Troubleshooting or Manager's Guide to Technical Troubleshooting, whichever is appropriate. Spend a few days to a few weeks putting what you learn into action. Then, if you want to really become an authority, read Troubleshooting Techniques of the Successful Technologist.

If you're a manager wanting to train your crew, order the Universal Troubleshooting Courseware or have me (Steve Litt) come out and teach it.
Steve Litt has taught troubleshooting since 1990. You can email Steve here.

Letters to the Editor

All letters become the property of the publisher (Steve Litt), and may be edited for clarity or brevity. We especially welcome additions, clarifications, corrections or flames from vendors whose products have been reviewed in this magazine. We reserve the right to not publish letters we deem in bad taste (bad language, obscenity, hate, lewd, violence, etc.).
Submit letters to the editor to Steve Litt's email address, and be sure the subject reads "Letter to the Editor". We regret that we cannot return your letter, so please make a copy of it for future reference.

How to Submit an Article

We anticipate two to five articles per issue, with issues coming out monthly. We look for articles that pertain to the Troubleshooting Process, or articles on tools, equipment or systems with a Troubleshooting slant. This can be done as an essay, with humor, with a case study, or some other literary device. A Troubleshooting poem would be nice. Submissions may mention a specific product, but must be useful without the purchase of that product. Content must greatly overpower advertising. Submissions should be between 250 and 2000 words long.

Any article submitted to Troubleshooting Professional Magazine must be licensed with the Open Publication License, which you can view at At your option you may elect the option to prohibit substantive modifications. However, in order to publish your article in Troubleshooting Professional Magazine, you must decline the option to prohibit commercial use, because Troubleshooting Professional Magazine is a commercial publication.

Obviously, you must be the copyright holder and must be legally able to so license the article. We do not currently pay for articles.

Troubleshooters.Com reserves the right to edit any submission for clarity or brevity, within the scope of the Open Publication License. If you elect to prohibit substantive modifications, we may elect to place editors notes outside of your material, or reject the submission, or send it back for modification. Any published article will include a two sentence description of the author, a hypertext link to his or her email, and a phone number if desired. Upon request, we will include a hypertext link, at the end of the magazine issue, to the author's website, providing that website meets the Troubleshooters.Com criteria for links and that the author's website first links to Troubleshooters.Com. Authors: please understand we can't place hyperlinks inside articles. If we did, only the first article would be read, and we can't place every article first.

Submissions should be emailed to Steve Litt's email address, with subject line Article Submission. The first paragraph of your message should read as follows (unless other arrangements are previously made in writing):

Copyright (c) 2001 by <your name>. This material may be distributed only subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License, version  Draft v1.0, 8 June 1999 (Available at (wordwrapped for readability at The latest version is presently available at

Open Publication License Option A [ is | is not] elected, so this document [may | may not] be modified. Option B is not elected, so this material may be published for commercial purposes.

After that paragraph, write the title, text of the article, and a two sentence description of the author.

Why not Draft v1.0, 8 June 1999 OR LATER

The Open Publication License recommends using the word "or later" to describe the version of the license. That is unacceptable for Troubleshooting Professional Magazine because we do not know the provisions of that newer version, so it makes no sense to commit to it. We all hope later versions will be better, but there's always a chance that leadership will change. We cannot take the chance that the disclaimer of warranty will be dropped in a later version.


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