How much control over the problem do you have?
There is a problem and a team who should do something about it. That team wants to communicate to others how much control over the problem they have. So they draw a scale, we will call it the problem-under-control-scale.
Here are some points they might mark on it (sorted roughly from bad to good):
- We don’t know there is a problem.
- We suspect there is a problem.
- We know there is a problem.
- We know there is a problem and how bad it is.
- We know there is a problem and how to find out more about it.
- We know where the cause of the problem lies.
- We were able to reproduce the problem.
- We know the cause of the problem.
- We understand the problem.
- We are looking for solutions.
- We know there is a solution.
- We know where to find a solution.
- We have an idea how a solution might look like.
- We are choosing between multiple apparent solutions.
- We know how we want to solve the problem.
- We are implementing a solution.
- We are testing a solution.
- We have solved the problem for now.
- We have solved the problem.
- We have solved the problem and learned from it.
- We have solved the problem and documented our learnings.
- We made sure problems like this can be solved easily in the future.
- We made sure problems like this can not happen anymore.
(I am sure there are more possible steps. For example, what if additional help is needed at any point?)
What to use the problem-under-control-scale for
I like this problem-under-control-scale, because it allows to think about problems in an abstract way.
- One of my favorite topics for talks/blogpost is “How we once improved our position on that scale”.
- “How we went from
We know there is a problem.to
We have solved the problem..”
- “How we went from
- In your teams’ update meeting you probably like to talk about
We are choosing between multiple apparent solutions.or better. But really important would be to talk about everything worse then
We understand the problem..
- Quite often people stop when they got to
We have solved the problem for now., when they really should push further down the scale.
- Open your favorite news-site. Most of them articles will be about problems. At which point are they on the problem-under-control-scale?
- You could also try to categorize posts on social media this way.
- Note how the first third of the scale doesn’t mention solutions at all. Don’t jump to solutions straight away. Sometimes knowing the problem might even be enough.
- Most ads try to sell you a solution to a problem you didn’t really have
(at least you made it so far without the advertised product).
So they have to get you from
We don’t know there is a problem.all the way to at least
We know where to find a solution.(but not accidentally to
We have solved the problem for now.or better, because that wouldn’t sell anything). Try to see how they manage that next time you see an ad.
- Most jobs pay so the employee solves some kind of problem.
When you get a problem to deal with, where is it on the
problem-under-control-scale? Close to
We suspect there is a problem.? (You are a detective then, cool!) Or more at
We know how we want to solve the problem.? (… and we want you to implement that solution)
What else could we do with the scale?
I think you could get some nice graphs if you pair the problem-under-control-scale with some other scale. Time perhaps? Or costs? Expertise_needed?
You would then plot the the course of your problems on the resulting coordinate system. This could help to answer questions like:
- Which step in the problem solving journey takes the most time/effort?
- Where do you get stuck most often?
- Should you perhaps approach your problems in a different way to get stuck less often?