i am a maintenance electrician in an industrial setting. what that means is that process operators call me when their automated equipment is not working, and i troubleshoot it and get it back online. for each call that i go to, i apply the same formula for solving the problem:
1. verify that there is actually a problem. sometimes nothing is broken, and in fact the problem is operator error.
2. isolate the problem. sometimes the symptoms of a problem aren't very helpful in identifying the cause. and sometimes the root of a problem can be 5 steps up or down the line from where the problem becomes apparent. sometimes figuring out what ISN'T broken is what leads to to what IS broken.
3. make the repair.
4. test the repair and verify that everything is working. make adjustments when necessary. sometimes this can be very time consuming.
5. put the equipment back into service.
i find this thought process to be pretty effective. i think it could be useful in solving many of the worlds problems, or at least in identifying the root cause of them.
so i am going to play the role of the operator, and you guys come and fix my machine.
i operate a country in africa, and my country is broken. the symptoms of my problems are widespread famine and sickness. please come and figure this out for me!
*ps, your operator is typically your best resource in helping you isolate the problem. ask lots of questions.