Monday, September 9, 2013

What Problem Are You Trying To Solve

Back at the little cabin in the woods where TOD goes to sharpen knives, clean guns and partake of poteen there have been many conversations about "what are they doing and why are they doing it". These are almost always philosophical  debates around the mysterious goings on of movers and shakers hereabouts excepting one rather pointless debate about the relative merits of Wicked Edge and Edge Pro systems and while that was called a draw other discussions always veered into the muddy ditch of ambiguity. Inspired by the clarity of thought only poteen can bring and immune to blessings of short term memory loss so often found at the bottom of a bottle of that most potent of potables an epiphany descended. When trying to determine a plausible answer to the aforementioned question it was revealed that you counter-intuitively need the answer to another question:
What problem are they trying to solve?
This may not seem particularly clarifying unless you understand a few TOD-Truisms[tm]. First is that here in TOD-land "where there is no solution there is no problem" which may seem to intertwine the definition of problem and solution. It does not. It simply means that encountering an unpleasant circumstance or a suboptimality does not a problem make. It may make a situation. It may make a conundrum. Not a problem. For a problem demands solution and this means that a problem has a finite lifetime ending its existence as a problem when the solution is identified and implemented. Of course this makes problems (and by implication solutions) abhorrent to politicians and the bureaucracies they so adore since implemented solutions and hence solved problems undermine the very reason for their existence.

Now you're beginning to understand City Hall, Decatur, the Gold Dome and why they are all so much alike.

Understanding the problem/solution relationship goes a long way towards understanding "what are they doing and why are they doing it". If you apply this filter to political rah-rah sessions, stump speeches and most of the documents finding their way from "The Staff" thru "The City Manager" to the City Council you'll waste a lot less time figuring out what is really going on. Inevitably the real problem they are trying to solve revolves around their own acquisition of power and money which has little relation to their vaguely stated "cover problem". This clarity of understanding won't make you happier but you'll have a lot more time to be miserable. Hence the poteen.

There is another important truism wrapped up in the problem-solution circle of life: if you have the solution, you own the problem. That's a whole other problem.