The continuum of Problem-solving:
You solve the visible problem.
You solve the problem that caused the visible problem.
You avoid the problem.
When solving visible problems, it’s easy to signal value creation to others. If you work in a large organization with a regular paycheck, few people ask if the problems should exist in the first place. Instead, everyone thinks you’re indispensable because you’re so busy solving problems.
As you move toward avoiding problems before they happen, visibility decreases. Explaining what you do all day becomes harder and more subjective. Rewarding people for something that didn’t happen is very difficult. Thus, it becomes risky for the employee to avoid problems.
From Farnam Street’s Brain Food Newsletter
“If you work in a large organization with a regular paycheck, few people ask if the problems should exist in the first place.” Reading this took me right back to my old IT office job.
I really loved that job when I first started. It was overlooking Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I worked my ass off to learn as quickly as I could. Years later I was rewarded with a technical administration position, which was better than it sounds.
It was a steep learning curve which involved a lot of testing, installations, maintenance, programming and 24 hour support. The product was a top of the range piece of software. It had just turned the year 2000 and money was flowing freely through the institutions that were supported. Work was interesting and fun.
Slowly, money started to dry up and upgrades were delayed. Often the users would demand it whilst their finance departments would not agree to pay for it. These battles went on consistently for about a decade. During that time all that I needed to do was to make sure the thing kept running. My typical work day could be over after 5 minutes of checking emails. So I made good use of the super fast internet, the office supplies and the printers.
Eventually they started replacing the product I was supporting with a cheaper alternative. Of course users complained because now their minor problems were turning into major problems. To save money, costed money. But it was more cost effective for my employer to pay penalties to the customer for fuckups than it was ensure the fuckups didn’t happen in the first place.
Eventually, after 13 years of arguing for better planning and products, sitting quietly doing my own things on company time, I was made redundant. It was an amazing relief to be honest, and it changed the course of my life. Much for the better, I like to think.
Now, wherever I am working, I can see the same redundant systems in place. The ‘work smarter, not harder’ mantra hasn’t managed to infiltrate everywhere as yet.
It won’t work,
Won’t work no more….