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Common Troubleshooting Myths


Whether you're reading this as an individual, a department member, or corporate management, your brand depends to a great degree on ability to quickly fix technical problems, and fix them so they stay fixed, so the fix doesn't cause side effect problems. In other words, your brand depends on high performance troubleshooting.

If you're reading this as an employee, a strong individual brand means less exposure to layoffs, greater opportunity for promotions, more influence on technical directions, and, probably, better performance reviews and salary increases.

A strong department brand means more influence on technical and logistical matters. It's a deterrent to department outsourcing, and helps secure a good budget for your department. It boosts department morale, and helps if some other department starts a turf war with yours.

A strong company brand means sales.

Bottom line, high performance troubleshooting makes life much better for everybody.

A significant factor retarding adoption of high performance troubleshooting in organizations large and small is belief in a set of false and destructive myths. This document lists those myths, and sets the record straight about each one.

Here are the destructive myths:

"You need to be a world-class expert on the machine or system you're troubleshooting"

This most destructive myth costs companies millions when they hire the wrong people for the wrong jobs. This myth causes them to hire technical experts without regard to their knowledge of the process and mindset of troubleshooting. The truth is, if you know enough about the machine or system to know what tests to conduct (and it's surprising how little knowledge this takes), you can use the Universal Troubleshooting Process to narrow the problem down to the root cause. Often mere possession of the system documentation or service manual, without prior knowledge of the system, gives a high performance Troubleshooter enough techical expertise to find the root cause.

On the other hand, systems experts who don't use a troubleshooting process fail spectacularly. If you're a technologist, learn the Universal Troubleshooting Process. If you're an employer, give your employees training in the process of troubleshooting.

"Troubleshooting is machine dependent"

The truth is that systems and machines may vary, but the Universal Troubleshooting Process is common to all!

"Great troubleshooters are born, not taught"

In reality, troubleshooting is a set of procedures, priorities, mental tools, beliefs and attitudes that anyone can master.

Occasionally you'll meet someone so completely invested in this myth they come back with an argument such as "Michael Phelps is a born swimmer, which is why he won 18 gold medals in three Olympics!"

Such a person should be reminded of the following:

  1. Michael Phelps might be a natural born swimmer, but he has had a swimming coach continuously from the age of eleven.
  2. Even though Michael Phelps is the world's best swimmer, you wouldn't hire him as a lifeguard at the local beach. You couldn't afford him, and you don't need world-class swimming skills. You just need the ability to swim a quarter mile out and drag an errant swimmer through rip currents. Many non-naturals can be trained to do that, always assuming they keep up their swimming workouts.
  3. You don't need, nor could you afford, a Troubleshooter who has won a world competition. You need someone who can quickly and accurately find the root cause of problems on the equipment your company uses or sells, and it's easy to train almost any technologist to do that, using Universal Troubleshooting Process training.

"Either you can troubleshoot or you can't"

This too is wrong. Just like any ability, there's a spectrum. A person can always get better. Imagine how silly this myth would sound substituting "play basketball" for the word "troubleshoot".

"I can troubleshoot -- I do it every day"

See previous myth.

"Troubleshooting isn't as important as other skills"

Tell that to the CEO when a mission-critical system crashes and revenue stops.

"All you need are diagnostic machines and software"

This myth results in millions of dollars worth of unnecessary repair work and unfixed systems. It's worst in the automotive industry, where in many shops if the diagnostic computer says "bad computer", then by gosh and by golly they replace the computer regardless of the fact that the computer is being fed garbage from a bad sensor. However, this myth causes problems in every industry, as you can see from the second story in this article.


There are many myths about troubleshooting, and these myths prevent troubleshooters from reaching their potential, and discourage organizations from giving their troubleshooters the right training. This, in turn, hurts your brand. Individuals can get the right training from books in the Troubleshooters.Com Bookstore. Departments and corporations can give their technologists the right training with the Troubleshooters.Com Universal Troubleshooting Process course.