T-SQL Tuesday: Fix the Glitch or Resolve the Problem

One of the interesting things about T-SQL Tuesday is that it’s a 24-hour event. So, being on the east coast of the US, I get the chance to read some of the blog posts for the event on Monday night, before I actually post mine, though I usually write them ahead of time. Last night I saw that Rob Farley (twitter | blog) had posted his T-SQL Tuesday post. Reading it, I came to a horrifying realization – Rob and I think alike! (If you know Rob, you’ll realize that’s a lot scarier than it sounds). His post and thought process was very similar to mine – though, while I did think about the screen resolution joke, I had the good sense not to mention it.

Seriously, since Rob’s one of the smartest guys I know, I think it’s pretty cool that we had the same approach.

This month’s T-SQL Tuesday is being hosted by Jen McCown (twitter | blog). She chose the topic of resolutions, with the new year in mind. I’ve never been big on the traditional idea of resolutions, and usually focus more on goals that I revisit on a regular basis.

So I started thinking about other ways that I could blog about resolutions, and the idea of resolving problems came to mind pretty quickly. In the roles I’ve filled over the last several years, I was often called in to deal with problems (technical and non-technical). The scope of the problems could vary quite a bit, from simple, 5 minute technical issues (“Why won’t my cube process?”) to business problems requiring full projects (“I need to analyze student performance and determine what factors impact it most heavily.”). One of the trends that I’ve noticed around solving problems is the shift from resolving the problem to simply fixing the glitch.

What’s the difference?

Well, just a second there, professor. We, uh, we fixed the *glitch*. So he won’t be receiving a paycheck anymore, so it’ll just work itself out naturally.
-Office Space


When you fix the glitch, you are basically looking for the quickest, cheapest, least effort patch to getting the immediate results you desire. When you resolve a problem, you are making sure the root cause of the issue is fixed, so that the problem doesn’t resurface in a new form a few months later, and so that you address the logical ramifications of the problem.

Of course, fixing the glitch is sometimes appropriate. If you have a server down situation and 50 people sitting around twiddling their thumbs till it’s back up, you need to get that fixed immediately. However, all too often, it stops there. Rather than investigating the root cause and how to prevent it, often the reaction is “It’s working – now back to business as usual.”

The biggest issue with fixing the glitch is that it sets you up for future failure. Most of the time, the patch fails to prevent issues because it didn’t address the problem completely. Even if the patch continues working, it’s creating something that will have to be worked around in the future. We’ve all dealt with those systems that have so many patches and quick fixes that everyone is scared to make any changes to them, for fear of breaking something else.

Resolving Problems

One of my goals for this year is to avoid quick fixes, and focus on resolving the root problems. That’s sometimes painful in the short term, as you don’t get that immediate satisfaction of resolving a problem 5 minutes into the conversation. The benefit, though, is that you won’t have to keep dealing with that same problem on a recurring basis for the next 5 years, so it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

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