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Fixing problems

  Engineers, derided as ``nerds'' and ``techies'' in the age of management, are taught not to manage problems but to fix them. Faced with a problem, an engineer strives to determine its cause and find ways to make the problem go away, once and for all.

An engineer believes most problems have solutions. A solution might not be achievable in the short term, but he's sure somewhere, somehow, inside every problem there lurks a solution. The engineer isn't interested in building an organisation to cope with the problem. Instead, the engineer studies the problem in the hope of finding its root cause. Once that's known, a remedy may become apparent which eliminates the need to manage the problem, which no longer exists.

Most of the technological achievements of the modern world are built on billions of little fixes to billions of little problems, found through this process of engineering. And yet the engineer's faith in fixes often blinds him to the fact that many problems, especially those involving people, don't have the kind of complete, permanent solutions he seeks.

By John Walker