25. Sometimes the problem is to discover what the problem is

In today’s episode, Asim sits down with Joe Lynch, an experienced engineering leader and the VP of Engineering at Twilio. Joe boasts comprehensive experience in bringing scalable SaaS products and platforms to market and leading world-class Engineering organizations, with a focus on quality, efficiency, rapid delivery, and continuous improvement. They discuss the best way to frame an engineering problem, how to overcome the solutions-based way of thinking, and effective ways to highlight a problem statement.

[00:00] Introduction
[01:45] Joe’s Passion For Solving Problems
[04:47] The Foundational Elements of Problem Framing
[09:15] What is Prescriptive Problem-Solving?
[10:30] How to Stop Reacting to Problems
[14:11] Ways to Effectively Frame a Problem Statement
[19:03] Analysis Paralysis When Solving Problems
[22:13] Defining Problems is Subjective, Not Objective
[25:50] Human Bias When Solving Problems
[28:18] Parting Thoughts

The Critical Value of a Well-Framed Problem

As engineers, we often talk about the solution space, but unfortunately, we don’t spend as much time talking about the problem space and alternative ways of defining a problem. You see, the critical value of a well-defined problem cannot be understated. Because if you don’t frame the problem properly, the solution will only be as good as the thinking that went into it. We are taught to tackle problems by looking at the idea of there being an implicit problem statement. And that the requirements document given to us by the product manager is somehow perfect.

According to Joe, it’s better to spend some time exploring the problem space. The problem space is essential because it defines the problem that needs solving. It also helps to identify the scope of the problem and the constraints that need to be considered while solving it. This saves time and makes it possible for engineers to solve customer pain points, desires, jobs to be done, and needs.

Links and Resources

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