– August 2, 2011
Don’t Go In Circles To Solve Your Problems
Let’s face it solving problems in claims is a core reality to what we do. From the second a claim hits your desk until the minute it leaves it there are a series of problems that need to be solved. Should this claim even be accepted? Was there any liability? What experts should I hire? How much is it worth? What are my next steps? At every turn there is another problem that needs to be solved.
As you probably have experienced, some people are very good problem solvers and others are not. In claims, however, there is no escaping the need to solve a variety of issues on a daily basis. Don’t fret if you don’t consider yourself a good problem solver as it turns out there is help for you.
Problem Solving Can Be Learned
Business Insider War Room author Martin Zwilling wrote in Nine Steps to Effective Business Problem Solving that “managing any business is all about problem solving. Some people are good at it and some are not – independent of their IQ or their academic credentials (there may even be an inverse relationship here). Yet I’m convinced that problem solving is a learnable trait, rather than just a birthright.”
Zwilling, taking a page from Brian Tracy, in his book “The Power of Self-Discipline” suggested 9 ways to train yourself to be a better problem solver. I took 7 of these that I believe are applicable to the claims world.
- Take the time to define the problem clearly. Many executives like to jump into solution mode immediately, even before they understand the issue. In some cases, a small problem can become a big one with inappropriate actions. In all cases, real clarity will expedite the path ahead.
- Pursue alternate paths on “facts of life” and opportunities. Remember, there are some things that you can do nothing about. They’re not problems; they are merely facts of life. Often, what appears to be a problem is actually an opportunity in disguise.
- Challenge the definition from all angles. Beware of any problem for which there is only one definition. The more ways you can define a problem, the more likely it is that you will find the best solution. For example, “sales are too low” may mean strong competitors, ineffective advertising, or a poor sales process.
- Iteratively question the cause of the problem. This is all about finding the root cause, rather than treating a symptom. If you don’t get to the root, the problem will likely recur, perhaps with different symptoms. Don’t waste time re-solving the same problem.
- Identify multiple possible solutions. The more possible solutions you develop, the more likely you will come up with the right one. The quality of the solution seems to be in direct proportion to the quantity of solutions considered in problem solving.
- Prioritize potential solutions. An acceptable solution, doable now, is usually superior to an excellent solution with higher complexity, longer timeframe, and higher cost. There is a rule that says that every large problem was once a small problem that could have been solved easily at that time.
- Make a decision. Select a solution, any solution, and then decide on a course of action. The longer you put off deciding on what to do, the higher the cost, and the larger the impact. Your objective should be to deal with 80 percent of all problems immediately. At the very least, set a specific deadline for making a decision, and stick to it.
Make the decision is my personal favorite. So often claims professionals are waiting for the next great piece of information that will save the day. More often than not, that information doesn’t alter the outcome that much. Making the decision to change the reserve or settle a claim should be made after careful problem solving has been considered. But regardless, the claims professionals job is to make the decision.