Problem solving flow chart

May 17, 2008 | By | 6 Replies More

I ended up with a copy of this humorous problem solving flow chart about 30 years ago. I don’t know who created it or when. I kept it in a folder all these years.  I find its sardonic logic impeccable.

If anyone knows the history of this chart, let me know so I can give proper credit.


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Category: Humor, Meaning of Life

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (6)

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  1. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    It's pretty old. The first time I saw the "problem solving" flowchart was at least 10 years ago when a Field Engineer (computer repairman) gave me a photo-copy.

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    <a href="; target="_new" title="Google Problem Solving Worksheet" rel="nofollow">A quick Google turns up a couple of thousand exact matches, none of which provide provenance. But there are cleaner copies of this chart out there.

    Back in 1980, a schoolmate of mine produced a similar flow chart on how to fix a flat tire for his programming class. There was no way to complete his elaborate chart without consuming at least one beer. Most paths put you over the legal limit, but only one path got you up and running again.

  3. Duncan says:

    I received this, disturbingly enough, from my teacher who was a biomedical equipment technician. But I was highly amused by it and still have it on my fridge!

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    This week, I received an email from a man who indicates that he was the creator of this flow chart. His name is John Butts:

    Hi Erich,
    Strange to say, I am the original author of the ‘Problem Solving Flowchart.’

    Here’s the story; back in the 1990’s, I was working at Konica Manufacturing USA, a Japanese photographic paper manufacturer located in Whitsett, NC. We were going through what then was a new undertaking, ISO 9001 registration. In fact, Konica was the first company in NC to become ISO certified. I was drafted to write procedures for the entire facility (350+ employees). As you may know, the essence of ISO is ‘say what you do and do what you say.’ I had some experience in this area as I had been a training instructor for a large southern textile company for many years; there, I designed manuals and wrote procedures (long before ISO) for nearly 50 jobs, ranging from entry level to supervisor.

    So, as we ramped up ISO validation procedures at Konica, I spent most of my days ensconced in a tiny 2nd floor office breaking down jobs step-by-step. In a moment of frivolity (and not a little bit of frustration with the constant workload and impeding deadline), I designed the ‘Problem Solving Flowchart.’ Simple as that – pretty much as you see it today. I posted it on my wall and quickly enough had many requests from engineers and managers (no one seemed to object to the language, thank God, as this was on the cusp of the politically correct era). I got used to seeing it around the plant on bulletin boards and on people’s walls. Everyone loved it and knew it was my creation. I stayed at Konica for 17 years altogether in various roles until 2007, when they sadly closed the doors for good.

    Flash forward to 2 years ago. Konica is now 7 years gone, along with the whole idea of ‘photographic paper,’ though a nascent start-up, Zink Imaging, has taken over the $142 million site. I was working for BD Women’s Health and Cancer, a class 2 medical device manufacturer, located less than 10 miles down the road from Konica. I was visiting one of our engineers; in fact, one of the ones responsible for our company. On his wall, I saw something that looked oddly familiar. I recognized my handwriting across the room, even that many years later (I had spent time working as a free-lance artist, doing cartoons and comic strips in a local paper. This explains why the lettering on the chart is in all caps – like comic strip lettering). When I got closer, I realized what it was. I asked Charlie where in the hell had he gotten that. He said it had been on the internet for years and he had pulled it from there. To say I was stunned would be putting it mildly.

    Suffice it to say, it’s now on the walls here at [my current employer], though a bit more discreetly this time, what with the modern sensibilities regarding ‘offensive’ language. Somewhere, in my garage, is a box of the stuff I packed up from Konica. In that box is the original ‘Problem Solving Flowchart.’ I’ll have to dig it out at some point, I suppose. I see t-shirts and coffee cups and more on the internet, not to mention hundreds of variations, some typed out neatly with the bad words removed. Obviously, that genie is out for good – I suppose it’d be nice to get a little credit somewhere.

    I see you’re an attorney in St. Louis. Funny, I was there 3 weeks ago on business. I travel quite a bit and to St. Louis at least one or twice a year. Small world, huh?

    Anyway, that’s the story. Saw on your site (very nice) that someone wondered who had written it. It was me.

    Sincere regards,
    John Butts

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