maciej łebkowski
Maciej Łebkowski

The XY problem

in Professional

At the beginning of our Docplanner Phone journey, we realized we’d like to have a marketing website for our product. Not a bad thought when you think of it. The home route would serve this static page, while the rest of the app would be hidden under some /app path or whatever.

The problem emerged when we realized that we don’t know how to merge two frontend frameworks in our build process. The website was to be written in Nuxt, mainly because if it’s server-side rendering capabilities, while the rest of the APP was in pure Vue.js. We struggled with this for a little while, exploring our options with our build process as well as considering rewriting the existing code to Nuxt, so we wouldn’t have to support two distinct apps. We even tried to separate those at the load balancer level.

Michał came along. He was just passing by and asked how we’re doing, assuming we’d abide by the small talk rules and respond with „fine, how are you?”, but we instead entangled him with our problem. After laying out the options, Michal took a step back and asked:

— Why do you actually need Nuxt in the first place?

Of course, it was for the SSR and SEO benefits… But after two minutes of consideration and a confirmation from our project owner, we realized that we can proceed without it.

What we did is run into XY problem. We didn’t need to figure out how to tweak our build process to include two frameworks. We didn’t need two frameworks at all. We needed a website. And after we started to ask the right questions, the answers followed. Michał helped us unblock by focusing on the problem, rather than the solution.

This is a common occurrence in our daily job, and it’s especially easy to fall for when talking to clients. They often come to us with feature requests. They are not experts, they often lack the context to see the bigger picture, so their solution may not be best suited for our product. We must manage their expectations by taking a step back and asking about their actual business requirements and problems they’re trying to solve. Only then can we suggest how to deal with them.

So: are you focusing on the problem or just one of the possible solutions?

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About the author

My name is Maciej Łebkowski. I’m a full stack software engineer, a writer, a leader, and I play board games in my spare time. I’m currently in charge of the technical side of a new project called Docplanner Phone.

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