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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Problem Solving

Finding the best solutions to problems is necessary for navigating the continuous changes impacting our profession. Firms that take a proactive and structured approach to problem-solving position themselves to overcome obstacles and capitalize on opportunities. This approach comes from making an effort to avoid the following five common problem-solving mistakes. 

Mistake #1: Not involving the right people 

When we exclude people from the problem-solving process, proposed solutions are one-sided or limited. Different perspectives help us better understand the problem.  

Resist the trap of allowing busy schedules and a desire for a quick resolution to allow people to be excluded.  

This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be involved. In fact, progress may be slower when too many people participate. The most effective problem-solving teams include representation from various departments and levels in the firm who share their perspectives and insights.  

Mistake #2: Failing to get aligned in the beginning 

Certain people may agree that a problem exists, but that doesn’t mean everyone has the same problem in mind. People have different expectations, opinions, goals and potential solutions. 

Effective problem-solving requires getting everyone on the same page. When the team isn’t aligned, there is a risk of running in different directions—everyone might cross the finish line, but no one wins the race. Ensure you define and document issues and reach alignment on which problem you’re trying to solve first. The result will be better solutions.  

Mistake #3: Making improvements that don’t address the source of the problem 

Brainstorming sessions are great for generating ideas, but this kind of activity shouldn’t be mistaken for achievement. After all, solutions that don’t address the cause of the problem just lead to more problems.  

We can avoid this mistake by using a simple yet effective tool called the “5 Whys.” By repeatedly asking “Why?”—five times is a good number—you can peel away the symptoms and reach the root cause of a problem. Often, the first or second “reason” for a problem leads you to another question. 

To complete the 5 Whys, identify a problem, ask why it happens, and then discuss and determine the answer. If the answer does not uncover the source of the issue, ask why again. Repeat this process until everyone agrees on the source of the issue.  

Mistake #4: Not considering how technology could be part of the solution 

Failing to leverage technology is a costly mistake.  

Some common reasons firms overlook technology include negative experiences from a past software trial, the belief that clients will not welcome technology advances, lack of education about features and benefits and fear of a learning curve slowing down internal processes.  

Firms that are unwilling to include technology as part of their problem-solving toolkit get left behind. The rate of technology change has accelerated dramatically, and solutions are customized to address the needs of the firm and the profession. Our people are intelligent, capable and eager to use technology solutions that will allow them to provide a better internal and external client experience. 

With very few exceptions, clients have the necessary technical expertise that they already use daily while interacting with banks, mortgage companies, social media and other outlets. Discomfort with technology shouldn’t hold the firm and clients back from taking advantage of the best possible solutions.   

Mistake #5: Not having a framework for problem-solving 

Finding the best solutions starts with taking a structured approach to problem-solving. Develop the habit of having the appropriate team members ask the following five questions to avoid problem-solving mistakes:  

  1. What problem do we want to solve?  

  1. Why is this an issue?  

  1. What are we currently doing to address this problem? 

  1. What could we do differently/better? 

  1. How can we move these ideas forward? What are the next steps?  

Effective problem-solving doesn’t happen by accident. Firms that take a disciplined approach find lasting solutions that lead to progress and growth.  



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