Troubleshooting Problems Study Guide (page 2)

Updated on Sep 19, 2011

Troubleshooting Problems That Interfere with Goals

Troubleshooting foreseeable and potential problems can be difficult. It requires critical thinking skills to examine the path to your goal, and imagine or note all of the things that might go wrong as you work toward achieving it. For example, Dylan had minor outpatient surgery and received a bill for $8,500. He can submit it to his insurance company, which will cover 80% of the cost. However, the company has rules for filing claims, including that they be submitted no later than 30 days after treatment. If he waits two months before trying to get reimbursed, he will lose $6,880.

Let's look at Dylan's problem in terms of troubleshooting. He has a very expensive bill to pay and can solve that problem by filing an insurance claim because it's a covered expense. How could he determine the potential problems that might prevent him from being reimbursed $6,800? The best way is to read over the terms of his insurance policy. Does the company require preapproval before he goes to the hospital? Does the hospital bill the insurance company directly or does he have to file the claim? Is there a time limit for filing a claim? Once he understands exactly what's expected of him, his doctor, and the hospital, he can follow the terms of the policy to get the money. The potential problems are defined in this case in the policy terms for reimbursement. If Dylan doesn't follow all of them, the insurance company is not obligated to pay 80% of the bill.


As an old proverb says, "Forewarned is forearmed." Another says, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Wishing a problem hadn't happened does no good, but if you learn from the experience, you can try to head it off in the future if it comes up again.

Prevention Versus Cure

Another kind of troubleshooting involves looking for patterns and trends. If you're frequently faced with the same kind of problem, your best defense is to figure out what causes it and what you need to change so it doesn't happen again. You may need to change your own habits, but by doing so, you are preventing the problem rather than always trying to solve it!

Here's an example: Ned's boss meets with her supervisor every Friday morning to give an update of the department's progress. Ned starts to notice a trend. At 4:00 p.m. every Thursday, his boss begins to become irritable. And for the past few weeks, she's asked Ned to summarize what he and his colleagues have accomplished during the week. She always needs the summary in one hour, no matter what other urgent business Ned has to attend to. Some weeks, he's had to stop important work to write the summary, making his coworkers late with materials that needed his input. There are several ways Ned might prevent another such Thursday afternoon problem, rather than simply dealing with it the same way week after week. First, he should ask his boss if the summary will be his responsibility every week. If it will be, Ned could troubleshoot to prevent it from becoming a crisis by:

  • asking his boss to alert the others in the department that every Thursday he'll be busy from 4:00–5:00 p.m., so everyone is clear about what he's doing.
  • clearing his schedule on Thursday afternoons, or even begin work on the summary on Thursday morning or even earlier in the week.
  • asking each coworker to give him a list on Thursday morning of all work done since the previous Thursday and any problems that arose, so he can easily compile the summary.

Following is a diagram you might want to use to explore possible troubleshooting methods. It can work for preventative troubleshooting or for anticipated problems that will occur whether you are prepared for them or not.

Troubleshooting Diagram

Here is a diagram that shows what might happen if someone's goal was to graduate one semester early.

Prevention Versus Cure

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