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Volume 10 Issue
What's In It For Me?
Issues | Linux
Productivity Magazine ]
“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".
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.
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
What's in it for You: The Short Answer
By Steve Litt
Money, power and fame.
improved social and family life.
These are the benefits accruing to the expert Troubleshooter, or the manager whose people troubleshoot quickly and accurately.
Don't believe me? Read on...
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
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
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,
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
All letters become the property of the publisher (Steve Litt), and
be edited for clarity or brevity. We especially welcome additions,
corrections or flames from vendors whose products have been reviewed in
magazine. We reserve the right to not publish letters we deem in
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Submit letters to the editor to Steve Litt's email address, and be
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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
We look for articles that pertain to the Troubleshooting Process, or
on tools, equipment or systems with a Troubleshooting slant. This can
done as an essay, with humor, with a case study, or some other literary
A Troubleshooting poem would be nice. Submissions may mention a
but must be useful without the purchase of that product. Content must
overpower advertising. Submissions should be between 250 and 2000 words
Any article submitted to Troubleshooting Professional Magazine must
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At your option you may elect the option to prohibit substantive
However, in order to publish your article in Troubleshooting
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Any published article will include a two sentence description of the
a hypertext link to his or her email, and a phone number if desired.
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Submissions should be emailed to Steve Litt's email address, with
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Copyright (c) 2001 by <your name>. This
may be distributed only subject to the terms and conditions set forth
the Open Publication License, version Draft v1.0, 8 June 1999
at http://www.troubleshooters.com/openpub04.txt/ (wordwrapped for
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this material may be published for commercial purposes.
After that paragraph, write the title, text of the article, and a
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