Problem Solving vs. Solution Finding

By enlarge, most developers fall into these two camps I will try to explain what I mean by way of example.

A manager gives the developer a task that is communicated like this: “Figure out why control A is not loading on this form”. Now, right there it could be argued that the manager should probably have given better direction and said something more like: “Control A is not loading on the Form, fix it”. They might sound like the same thing to most people, but the first statement will have the developer problem solving the reason why it is failing. The second statement should have the developer looking for the solution to make it work, not focus on why it is broken. In the end, they might be the same thing, but I usually see the first approach take way longer than the second approach.

The Problem Solver:

The problem solver’s approach to fixing something that is broken is likely to take the error or behavior that is being observed and start to research it using a tool like Google, or any other search engine. 7/10 times this will yield results for the most common of issues. The challenge is in the other 30% of issues that will take the problem solver down the rabbit hole and cause them not to surface for days on end while every avenue is explored for the cause of the problem. In the end, they will probably find the cause of the issue and resolve it, but the cost can be days, or weeks of work.

The Solution Finder:

The solution finder’s approach to a problem will begin the same way the Problem Solver’s approach will. The difference comes in the more difficult cases. Rather than stick to the pure “This has to work so I am going to work with it until it does” approach, the Solution Finder will look for other ways to get the requirements satisfied that may or may not be using the original approach. For example. there are two area of an application of externally equivalent features, meaning that from a user’s perspective, the behavior is the same. So, say that for whatever reason, area A is now not working, but area B is working. The Problem Solver will dig in to see why area A is broken, where the Solution Finder will investigate to see what is the difference between the two areas and solve the problem by potentially working around it.

The other notable difference between the two types of developers described is what point they reach before they re-emerge from their task. The problem solver will likely emerge with a triumphant “I have found the problem” where as the Solution Finder will emerge with the more useful “I have the solution”.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, users are what drives features in software development. With out users there is no need for software. In todays world of software development with so many tools to use, and generally tight schedules I believe that a work around to a problem that takes 8 hours vs. the more pure solution to the problem that takes 40 hours is a more fruitful approach.

Print | posted on Friday, November 16, 2012 11:07 AM

Comments on this post

No comments posted yet.

Your comment:

 (will show your gravatar)