Optimizations are not solutions

People often try to solve problems. Often their solutions do not work. One pattern where solutions normally do not work is when they are not solutions, but optimizations .

For example, Jira. Jira may be sold as a solution to project management, but it is in fact a tool to optimize project management. If your projects are not being managed because your team doesn’t know how to manage projects, Jira will not solve your problems. If your team is already great at managing projects, but is finding that the act of project management is taking a lot of time, then Jira (or probably an alternative with better and faster UX), might help them project manage more efficiently.

You can see people making this ‘implement-an-optimization-as-a-solution’ mistake across many areas of life. Buying that smoothie maker is not going to make you healthier, but if you are already habitually eating healthier food, maybe it can reduce your preparation time. Buying that home gym is not going to make you exercise, though if you are already exercising for n hours a day, maybe it can help you focus on some specific muscle groups. Finding a corporate structure or country with a great tax rate is not going to make you money, though maybe if you already have money it will help you keep a little more of it. You get it.

English is an imprecise language that is used imprecisely by imprecise people, so sometimes when you are faced with a problem it is not immediately clear if it needs to be solved or if there is an existing solution that needs to be optimized . But explicitly asking yourself which it is and letting that influence your choice (which is often ‘should I spend money on this shiny thing?’) is a good mental shortcut to practice.