Essential Life Tools: The Troubleshooting Flow Chart


The Troubleshooting Flow Chart

Problem-solving is an essential skill, regardless of ones job. So, when I happened onto the Troubleshooting Flow Chart that depicts this process at its most fundamental level, I recognized the opportunity and obligation to introduce it to any viewers who may be unfamiliar with the schematic and, more importantly, its powerful underlying principle.

The diagram at the top of this post, said to have circulated on the internet before it was the internet,1 is the earliest and simplest version of Troubleshooting Flow Chart I’ve found, but is certainly a distant iteration of the original.2 Later editions that feature more elaborate algorithms and flashy graphics are available but add little of substance to the concept.

In any case, I submit that the worldwide distribution of the Troubleshooting Flow Chart itself justifies the existence of the internet.

Note: Originally posted Sep 24, 2006 at, a predecessor of


  1. The internet did not arrive completely developed, like Athena springing full-grown in a suit of armor from the head of Zeus (I suppose a more accessible simile these days would be “like a order delivered by FedEx” but that gets tangled since a pre-internet would be an anachronism). The internet had a precursor, the ARPANET (The Advanced Research Projects Agency Net), and the consequences of its evolution from that beginning include some of the most beneficial, most cumbersome, most dangerous, and most creative aspects of the net. The Wikipedia article on this topic can be accessed at ~ Wikipedia: ARPANET ~ []
  2. While the author of Version 1.0 will probably never be ascertained, my personal conviction is that Adam and Eve, after being cast from the Garden of Eden, paused, using accepted Quality Cycle methodology developed by their contemporaries, Deming and Juran, to reflect and review recent events with an eye toward performance improvement. The result was the prototype of the Fundamental Troubleshooting Flow Chart. In any case, it certainly fits:

    OK, what happened? We had the Garden of Eden, which seemed to work fine. Then what happened? Then we screwed with it. And then? … []

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