By Alistair Nestor, PaperCut: One of the common frustrations in IT support – other than customers who don’t realise their hardware isn’t plugged into the wall – is spending 45 minutes trying to figure out what the person is actually trying to do. This happens because, often, people will ask for help based on their attempted solution (“I’ve tried X, and it’s not working.”) rather than the underlying problem (“Y has gone wrong. Do you know what might be causing it?”)
They call this the XY Problem. It was coined by American software developer Eric S Raymond, it’s an easy trap to fall into. Both for users and IT professionals.
What is the XY Problem?