Now is the second time, that the fundamental difference and source of all major conflict between an engineers and managers approach is revealed to me as I'm reading Kaizen and The Art of Creative Thinking by Shigeo Shingo: engineers, they want to 'fix' problems, while for managers, it's sufficient to 'manage' them - that is, have them under control. The first time I encountered this comparison was reading The Hacker's Diet by AutoDesk founder John Walker.
The solution, as most of the time, is in between.
Faced with an issue, engineers, having a perfectionist stance, deem any 'solution' a failure, unless it is a 100% solution. If the tap is leaking, the only solution is such that there are no droplets coming from it if it is closed. Whereas for managers, the goal is to keep the issue at bay, and know how to maintain a status quo. Using this approach, placing a glass under the tap, and making sure it is emptied regularly is solution in itself. After all: there's no unknown leakage anymore, and everything is kept under control.
Of course, the best usually comes when these worlds are combined: let's improve on the valve, so that dripping is very limited, but still place and empty the glass underneath, albeit emptying with much less frequency - something that would not be considered a solution by an engineer at all. But from a managerial perspective, the maintenance resources are decreased considerably, and thus this is a major improvement in itself.
Shigeo Shingo suggests that this is actually a very good way to eventually achieve a 'perfect' solution, as it is easier to tackle only parts of a problem than the whole. One can 'solve' say 60-80% of the cases with a naive approach, and put it into effect right away, already harvesting the benefits. And then there's time to go for the remaining 20-40% later.
To the frustration of perfectionist engineers, this latter improvement sometimes never happens, and then there's a feeling that 'everything is broken', 'nothing is done properly'. And from his perspective, this view is understandable. But then again, making 60-80% improvements on other parts of the process is most probably a time much better spent than attacking 20-40% yields for the sake of perfectionism.
Nevertheless, the source of the conflict is ever there, and one must be wise to mitigate it regularly.