Troubleshooting

Some thoughts on the art and science of troubleshooting, or how not to resort to the bigger hammer. What I offer up is based on my experience trying to solve problems across an array of disciplines, from truck repair to software debugging. There are common elements to all that are listed below.

1) Work from the known to the unknown not the other way.
This is best illustrated by working with electrical circuits. There are any number of      reasons why electricity is not reaching the end of circuit and working backwards through the circuit often leads down false branches. It is a lot easier to start at the closest panel box and follow the circuit out until voltage is lost.

2) Keep notes.
I am not talking an encyclopedic compendium, something more along the likes of a bread crumb trail to keep from going in circles or trodding down old paths. To extend the electrical example, was that the green wire with white trace or white wire with green trace?

3) All information is important.
I will not recount the number of times I ignored an error message because I ‘knew’ it was not important, much to my later chagrin.

4) KISS(Keep It Simple Stupid).
The poor mans version of Occam’s Razor. If the choice is between an alien gamma ray device flipping bits in the computer or poor quality memory chips, go with the latter.

5) First guess.
This is the you know more than you think principle. Also known as listening to the little voice. In the absence of definite plan, go with the first thought that strikes you. I use to spend a lot of time fighting the little voice, until I realized it was the part of me that was actually paying attention.

6) Walk away.
My dog has helped me solve many problems. I don’t know how many times I took a break to walk the dog and had the answer present itself while the dog was leaving a message. Disconnecting from the problem is often good way to make the connection.