Troubleshooting Process in Training Firms

Executive Summary

Presenting the Universal Troubleshooting Process course to your consultants is a relatively easy and cost effective way to significantly boost the perception of your consultants' competence and your commitment to the client.

The Universal Troubleshooting Process can help you place consultants with superior design and technical problem solving performance, who are faster learners and more able to compensate for minor weaknesses in non-core technical knowledge.

By Steve Litt

Regarding troubleshooting training: The main benefit to a training firm is that the course will greatly improve the perceived and actual competence of your students. To the extent that post-training performance is evaluated by the employer, you can expect this to improve your repeat business. Let me explain how the Universal Troubleshooting Process course will improve your students' performance.

Much of any technologist's work involves solving technical problems. Solving network problems, fixing complex protocol problems, debugging computer programs, and providing user support are some obvious examples. Less obvious is the role of troubleshooting in design.

A large portion of the creation of a new computer program or web application, cloud application, SAAS, and the like, is debugging. Despite the occasional claim of "zero defect programming", my experience is that even the best designed and coded programs contain bugs which must be fixed before user exposure. The speed and accuracy of your students' debugging activities determines the promptness of rollout and the quality of the program, which in turn determines their satisfaction with their training, as well as their employers' satisfaction.

Similarly, troubleshooting is a big part of the design of networks, websites and systems. A great deal of your students' design performance is dependent on their ability to quickly and accurately solve technical problems.

The trait commonly known as "troubleshooting ability" requires two distinct areas of knowledge:

  1. Knowledge of the system under scrutiny.
  2. Knowledge of the process of troubleshooting.

Both types of knowledge are necessary. A serious deficiency in either renders the technologist ineffective at troubleshooting, debugging and diagnostic activities, and therefore design activities.

Most technologists are trained in the system under scrutiny. Certainly they've already learned the underlying technology, either in school, or in training courses you've provided. But even beyond that, so-called "troubleshooting courses" given by colleges, tech schools, and training firms emphasize the technology of the system under scrutiny and add little in the way of troubleshooting skills. Most technologists already have ample knowledge of the system under scrutiny, and the technologies that make that system work.

Contrast this to their training in the process of troubleshooting. They've probably not had a minute of such training. It isn't taught in high school, college, tech schools, or training courses. A lucky few received training on a subset of troubleshooting process in the military. Any troubleshooting process knowledge most of your students possess was learned in the "school of hard knocks", and is likely incomplete.

When you hear critiques such as "he knows the theory, but he can't apply it", chances are that the person being spoken of is severely deficient in knowledge troubleshooting process. Similarly, "paper MCSE", "he just has book learning", "he just read a book", or "he's smart but he isn't effective on the job" often point to a severe lack of troubleshooting process knowledge.

Less severe deficiencies exhibit themselves as "average" performance. If you know a person who knows all the terminology and components, yet doesn't perform as an all star, the likely cause is insufficient knowledge of the troubleshooting process.

Once again, because the vast majority never received a minute of troubleshooting process training, troubleshooting process knowledge is a significant performance bottleneck for most technologists.

The good thing about bottlenecks is that when you improve them, the entire system improves almost proportionally. This means it's likely that two days of troubleshooting process training will unleash the productivity of your students' current system and technology training, massively boosting their productivity. Both the student and his or her employer will notice the change.

Another benefit of troubleshooting process knowledge is that it's system and organization independent. This means if you train a career changer in troubleshooting process, he or she will exhibit above average productivity the first day on the job, and will fondly remember the roll of your company in his or her success.

I've found that thorough knowledge of troubleshooting process can compensate for minor deficiencies in technical knowledge. The use of proper process enables a technologist to solve problems in a system containing components he or she doesn't completely understand.

Additionally, troubleshooting plays an important role in your students' post-course technical learning. When a technologist fixes a problem in a system, the relationship between the root cause and the effect imparts information about the underlying technology. Troubleshooting process training will help your students firm their grip on the technical information you gave them in class.

You can achieve these benefits by offering the Universal Troubleshooting Process to your students. You can read about the Universal Troubleshooting Process at the following Internet URLs:

The course is best taught as a 2 day course, 45% examples and exercise, and 55% lecture. Exercises can be either hands-on using the same technology and systems the attendees use in their work, or the exercises can be presented as a simulation, where half the class "simulates" the system under scrutiny and the other half "simulates" the troubleshooter. Naturally, the halves take turns in these roles.

Besides the course materials, I'll supply you with instructors notes describing the best ways to set up exercises, and several hours of email support to answer any questions your trainers may have. The license fee for the course, materials, instructors notes and several hours of email support is between $40.00 and $60.00 per attendee (minimum 10 attendees).

In summary, the Universal Troubleshooting Process can help you train students to have superior design and technical problem solving performance, and to do more with their technical skills. If you think this is something that would improve clients' perception of your firm, it certainly bears further investigation.

Please feel free to email me at Steve Litt's email address for further info or answers to any questions you may have.