Friday, April 22, 2011

On Problem Solvers and Problem Throwers

People have problems; some of them very large, some of them very small, but everybody has problems that have to be solved. In many ways, this is the very foundation of business. When somebody has a problem, and (for whatever reason) he is unable to solve it himself, he can find someone else to solve it for him, for a price. Along with that comes the needs of the problem solvers, too.

When a business is formed to solve a problem, new problems get found to be solved. For instance, a retail store solves the problem that many people have: "How do I get the stuff that I want?" That store, though, has to deal with problems of "How do we get the stuff that people want to buy?" and "So, we're using computers. How do we keep them running properly?"

That last question is where I make my living. My career is helping people get the most out of their computers. I take this very seriously, much more so than I should, maybe. To that end, I feel I have earned the title of "Problem Solver." I work with people to understand the problem, and fix what I can. If I can't fix it, I find ways to help someone else fix it, and make sure the original problem gets solved.

I know other problem solvers. They do the same thing. Together, we fix problems, large and small. Sometimes, we fix problems that are not strictly what we were hired to do, but need to be fixed. As one example, I was not hired to move furniture. When the time came to move office buildings, I was there, ready to assemble desks and chairs if need be.

Now, to some degree, we are all problem throwers, too. If ever you've said something like "I can't" or "Not right now" or "Joe over there is better able to help you", you've thrown a problem at someone else to resolve. The difference is really in the way you handle problems.

If you view problems as belonging to you until someone else takes over, you're more of a problem solver. If, on the other hand, you work to prove that the problems should be handled by someone else, then you're a problem thrower.

What I have been finding more and more is that problem throwers are problems themselves. For instance, one of my coworkers has shown himself to be a problem thrower. We began experiencing a problem today with a specific machine connecting to our mail system. If we changed its IP address, it would work fine.  When we tried the problem IP address on a different machine, the problem moved to the new machine.

All of that put together indicates either a network device between the workstation and the server (since both workstations we gave that address to are attached to the same switch), or a problem on the server. I asked the network engineer to double-check the network devices, while asking the sysadmin to double-check the server and verify no problems.

The replies I got amounted to "The problem can't be on my equipment, since we never set it up that way." No verification, no checking, just "Nope, not my problem." Problem throwers.

I have neither time nor patience for problem throwers. Most people don't have the time for it, either. I hope none of you are one, and if you are, please reconsider. We're all trying to ensure that the people we're taking care of are actually taken care of. When you throw problems out there for someone else, all you do is make more problems for everybody else.

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