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The 10 Pitfalls of Problem Solving: Don't Let These Mistakes Hold You Back

by Allan Ung

The 10 Pitfalls of Problem Solving


"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."


Albert Einstein



Introduction


Problem-solving is an essential skill that can be applied in various areas of life. Whether it's a personal problem, a business challenge, or a community issue, the ability to identify the problem and find an effective solution is critical. Problem-solving is the process of identifying a problem, defining it, developing and evaluating solutions, and implementing the best one.


A problem is a deviation from a standard.

A problem is a deviation from a standard.



A problem is an obstacle or difficulty that needs to be resolved or overcome. It is a situation that creates an undesirable result or outcome, and it requires action to be taken to achieve a better outcome. A problem can be either a tangible or intangible issue, and it can have varying degrees of complexity.


In any problem-solving process, there are common mistakes that can impede progress, lead to incomplete solutions, and result in the problem recurring in the future. These mistakes or pitfalls, are important to be aware of to ensure that your problem-solving process is effective and efficient. From inaccurate problem definition to lack of technical skills, each mistake can impact the process differently, highlighting the importance of taking a disciplined approach to problem-solving. In this blog, we will discuss each of the 10 common pitfalls in more detail and explore ways to avoid them.



1. Inaccurate or Ambiguous Problem Definition


The first pitfall is not defining the problem accurately. If the problem is not accurately defined, it can lead to wasted time, effort, and resources. The problem description should be specific and clear, with a focus on what needs to be addressed.


To avoid this pitfall, take the time to define the problem clearly and succinctly. Use facts and data to support your definition, and ensure that everyone involved has a shared understanding of the problem.



2. Overreaching Scope (Trying to "Boil the Ocean")


The second pitfall is attempting to solve a problem that is too broad or complex. This approach can lead to frustration and confusion, as well as a lack of progress.


To avoid this pitfall, start by breaking the problem down into smaller, manageable parts. Focus on solving each part of the problem, and then integrate the solutions to address the bigger issue.



3. Skipping or Rushing Through Problem-Solving Step


The third pitfall is not following a structured problem-solving process. Skipping steps or rushing through the process can result in an incomplete or ineffective solution.


To avoid this pitfall, take the time to follow a structured problem-solving process. This includes identifying the problem, defining it, generating and evaluating solutions, and implementing the best one.



4. Ineffective Team Participation


The fourth pitfall is having team members who do not contribute effectively to the problem-solving process. This can occur when team members lack the necessary expertise or when they do not collaborate effectively.


To avoid this pitfall, ensure that the problem-solving team has the necessary expertise to address the problem. Encourage open communication and collaboration among team members to leverage their diverse perspectives and expertise.



5. Lack of a Disciplined Process


The fifth pitfall is not using a disciplined process to prioritize, analyze, and review data and information. Without a structured approach, the analysis can be incomplete, leading to ineffective solutions.


To avoid this pitfall, use a disciplined approach to prioritize, analyze, and review data and information. This includes using tools such as decision matrices and Pareto charts to prioritize issues and identify root causes.



6. Insufficient Problem Analysis


The sixth pitfall is not drilling down enough to identify the root cause of the problem. This can result in superficial solutions that do not address the underlying issue.


To avoid this pitfall, use techniques such as the 5 Whys or Fishbone diagrams to drill down to the root cause of the problem. This will help to ensure that the solution addresses the underlying issue and is more effective.



7. Pressure from Management


The seventh pitfall is when management pressure or impatience results in a rushed or incomplete analysis. This can lead to inadequate solutions that do not fully address the problem.


To avoid this pitfall, it is important to communicate the importance of taking the necessary time to conduct a thorough analysis. Set realistic expectations and timelines, and emphasize the importance of addressing the root cause of the problem to ensure a more effective solution.



8. Failure to Address Root Causes


The eighth pitfall is when the Permanent Corrective Actions (PCA) do not address the root causes of the problem. This can result in the problem recurring in the future.


To avoid this pitfall, ensure that the PCA addresses the root cause of the problem. This may require additional analysis and testing to ensure that the solution is effective and sustainable.



9. Failure to Implement Permanent Corrective Actions


The ninth pitfall is when the PCA is not implemented effectively. This can occur due to a lack of resources, resistance to change, or a lack of accountability.


To avoid this pitfall, establish clear ownership and accountability for implementing the PCA. Provide the necessary resources and support to ensure that the solution is implemented effectively.



10. Lack of Technical Skills


The tenth pitfall is when team members lack the technical skills necessary to effectively apply statistical and problem-solving methods. This can result in an incomplete or ineffective analysis.


To avoid this pitfall, provide the necessary training and development opportunities for team members to develop their technical skills. This can include training on statistical methods, problem-solving techniques, and data analysis tools.



Conclusion


In conclusion, problem-solving is an essential skill that can be applied in various areas of life. However, there are common pitfalls that can hinder the effectiveness of the process. By avoiding these pitfalls, following a structured problem-solving process, and leveraging diverse perspectives and expertise, individuals and teams can achieve more effective and sustainable solutions.


Allan Ung

Article by Allan Ung, Managing Consultant at Operational Excellence Consulting, a Singapore-based management consultancy firm that assists organizations in maximizing customer value and minimizing wastes through adoption of Design Thinking and Lean management practices. For more information, please visit www.oeconsulting.com.sg




 

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