The Problem Solver

  • Andy Warren

    SSC Guru

    Points: 119676

    Comments posted to this topic are about the item The Problem Solver

  • PAH-440118

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1180

    Your comments "Better to listen and nod in most cases." remind me of a brief dip into the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. one of the few things I understood was when a woman tells a man a problem she doesn't necessarily want it fixed she wants him to understand what she has to put up with.

    I am sure this is a massive over generalisation but it does lead me to realise that just because there is a problem it does not necessarily need fixing.

  • Yet Another DBA

    SSCarpal Tunnel

    Points: 4299

    Keeping a problem solver happy requires a reasonable stream of interesting problems to solve.

    The child's toy of different shaped pegs needing to be placed through different shaped holes seems to me to be even beyond the aptitude of some business/project managers. If they struggle with that what hope is there for keeping an average techie from getting bored.

    ..... but the effort may hold almost no value for the business. It’s often difficult to understand why the business doesn’t want those solved too – can’t they see the current solution is sub-optimal?

    Depends what emphasis is placed on the problem. If the problem is not a business requirement then it can be used as a coffee break / back burner puzzle as a way of expanding and enhancing skill. It is important that it *is* a puzzle then it helps prioritise the work that is needed to be done. I have found what a manager thinks is a problem that needs to be solved isn't always what the Director sees as an issue. And no doubt there will be cases where a Directors problem is a non-issue for the Board.

  • Matt Algate

    SSC Enthusiast

    Points: 170

    Bobb Biehl wrote a fantastic book on the unique and important role Problem Solvers play in our world:

    Stop Setting Goals (If you would rather solve problems).

    I purchased 20 of them a while back and have given almost all of them away to clients and friends.

  • Eric M Russell

    SSC Guru

    Points: 125032

    The best problem solvers don't just fix, we adapt and innovate.

    Take for example a scenario where office staff routinely print purchase orders from one application just so they can then manually re-enter the data into another accounting application. Someone complains that the <tab> key doesn't navigate input fields in the sequence that they really need, and when they click the 'Save' button, the application freezes for a full minute and somtimes even returns with an error.

    A true problem solver knows that the root of problem does not lie within the input application. The true problem is that users are forced to enter purchase orders twice, and the solution should be a process to automatically integrate the two database systems.

    Of course this type of problem solving can also be disruptive to the existing legacy process that some folks have gotten too comfortable with, and it isn't always appreciated by everyone involved for various reasons.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • below86

    SSChampion

    Points: 11290

    PAH-440118 (8/28/2015)


    Your comments "Better to listen and nod in most cases." remind me of a brief dip into the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. one of the few things I understood was when a woman tells a man a problem she doesn't necessarily want it fixed she wants him to understand what she has to put up with.

    I am sure this is a massive over generalisation but it does lead me to realise that just because there is a problem it does not necessarily need fixing.

    You would think after 20+ years of marriage I would remember this, put the problem solver in me keeps coming out. Just a couple days ago my wife was explaining to me all the different steps she had to take for this new project and there I was trying to solve it, stream line it. :w00t:

    I like to consider myself a problem solver at work, but sometimes after month after month of fixing problems it does seem to wear on me, and I look forward to creating something new.

    But the problem solver part is hard to turn off, I overheard a coworker talking about a process that is taking around 50 hours to run at month end, It's really hard not to go over there and try and speed it up. But I got other thing I need to get done, so I don't have the time. 🙁

    -------------------------------------------------------------
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    Don't fear failure, fear regret.

  • Eric M Russell

    SSC Guru

    Points: 125032

    I'll admit that, if what someone really needs at the moment is a sympathetic listener, then I'm probably not the guy they want to turn to. It's doesn't come naturally, and it requires a good deal of effort for me to switch gears and listen from start to finish without jumping in at various points to ask for clarification or point something out. I spend my days in an office working with other IT professionals, not hanging out at a coffee shop with friends or watching episodes of Oprah and Dr. Phil. That said, people do often come to me for advice, not about IT junk, but stuff in general. However, at that point it's advice they're looking for.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • jay-h

    SSCoach

    Points: 18816

    PAH-440118 (8/28/2015)


    .. I understood was when a woman tells a man a problem she doesn't necessarily want it fixed she wants him to understand what she has to put up with. ....

    A lesson I have had to learn from experience.

    ...

    -- FORTRAN manual for Xerox Computers --

  • Eric M Russell

    SSC Guru

    Points: 125032

    jay-h (8/28/2015)


    PAH-440118 (8/28/2015)


    .. I understood was when a woman tells a man a problem she doesn't necessarily want it fixed she wants him to understand what she has to put up with. ....

    A lesson I have had to learn from experience.

    In many cases the person complaining actually doesn't have to put up with a problem; it can be fixed... if only they are willing to listen. Simply venting about a problem doesn't solve anything, even if the other person is willing to listen. Problem solving is a two way street; folks have to be willing to listen to both the problem and the possible solutions.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • Andrew_Steitz

    SSC Journeyman

    Points: 93

    @Matt Algate, thank you for pointing out the book. Just ordered two copies.

    @eric M Russell, example: I once had a user base whose performance reviews included a metric regarding how many actions they took on the (medical) referrals (to a specialist) they entered into/reviewed on the company's legacy mainframe system each day.

    I was the lead developer for an initiative that created a web page which allowed doctor's offices to complete most of these requests online, or at least get most of the request done and submit for further review. This was supposed to dramatically increase the number of cases our employees could complete in a day. It turned out that they were completing fewer cases per day than before.

    When we observed the users to see what was slowing them down we saw that they would bring up cases that were auto-approved and verify the information with what showed on the web page. Why? Because of the aforementioned metric. The system captured metrics on the users' actions per case instead of the number of cases they completed. They were duplicating work to make sure that their efforts were counted in the metrics. You would not believe (OK, maybe you would) the resistance we got from the users' supervisors to change that metric/report. We basically had to go all the way up to the C-level execs. Insane!



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  • Mickey Stuewe

    SSC Eights!

    Points: 879

    I am such a HUGE problem solver. I still need to learn what not to fix. It's frustrating for me to see bad design, and bad practices.

    Thank you for this article Andy. I'm going to ask my manager for some guidelines to help me not get frustrated when I see bad performing queries that I know how to fix, but are not worth my time.

    Mickey Stuewe
    Sr Database Developer
    My blog
    Follow me on twitter: @SQLMickey
    Connect with me on LinkedIn
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I laugh loudly and I laugh often. Just ask anyone who knows me.

  • Andy Warren

    SSC Guru

    Points: 119676

    Mickey, I try to put stuff like that on a list, helps me feel a little more in control, and sometimes when I need a break I'll grab one and work on it even if it's not the most important thing.

  • Eric M Russell

    SSC Guru

    Points: 125032

    JustRightOfCenter (8/28/2015)


    @Matt Algate, thank you for pointing out the book. Just ordered two copies.

    @eric M Russell, example: I once had a user base whose performance reviews included a metric regarding how many actions they took on the (medical) referrals (to a specialist) they entered into/reviewed on the company's legacy mainframe system each day.

    I was the lead developer for an initiative that created a web page which allowed doctor's offices to complete most of these requests online, or at least get most of the request done and submit for further review. This was supposed to dramatically increase the number of cases our employees could complete in a day. It turned out that they were completing fewer cases per day than before.

    When we observed the users to see what was slowing them down we saw that they would bring up cases that were auto-approved and verify the information with what showed on the web page. Why? Because of the aforementioned metric. The system captured metrics on the users' actions per case instead of the number of cases they completed. They were duplicating work to make sure that their efforts were counted in the metrics. You would not believe (OK, maybe you would) the resistance we got from the users' supervisors to change that metric/report. We basically had to go all the way up to the C-level execs. Insane!

    If you work for a company that measures productivity by the number of lines of code written per day, then there are some T-SQL code formatters that can help improve your standing in that regard. You'd be surprised how far you can stretch a single select statement, without negatively impacting it's functionality or performance, if you simply insert CR-LF after each keyword and comma. :hehe:

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • Andy Warren

    SSC Guru

    Points: 119676

    Eric M Russell (8/28/2015)


    The best problem solvers don't just fix, we adapt and innovate.

    Nicely said.

  • GeorgeCopeland

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 6896

    Great essay, so true. Developers do a thing I call swarm. They see you with a problem and suddenly they are all standing around your desk, Did you try this, Did you try that. IT managers take advantage of this behavior, giving you more problems to solve, sometimes not caring if they burn you out.

    Eric M Russell (8/28/2015)


    In many cases the person complaining actually doesn't have to put up with a problem; it can be fixed... if only they are willing to listen.

    You missed the point, Mr. Problem Solver.

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