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Using Root Cause Analysis and the 5 Whys Technique for Effective Problem-Solving in IT
Project Management 7 min read

Using Root Cause Analysis and the 5 Whys Technique for Effective Problem-Solving in IT

Effective problem-solving is a vital skill for both individuals and organizations. With technology playing an increasingly integral role in our lives, it is crucial to minimize downtime and find efficient solutions to any issues that may arise. This is where tools like Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and the 5 Whys technique come into play. Understanding the Basics of Problem-Solving in IT Before we delve into the specifics of Root Cause Analysis and the 5 Whys technique, let's take a moment to appreciate the importance of effective problem-solving in IT. In an industry where every second counts, quickly identifying and resolving issues can mean the difference between a seamless user experience and a major disruption. Diligent problem-solving helps maintain productivity and customer satisfaction and also keeps IT operations running smoothly. The Importance of Effective Problem-Solving in IT Efficient problem-solving in IT goes beyond mere troubleshooting; it involves identifying the root cause of an issue and implementing sustainable solutions. By addressing root causes, rather than simply treating symptoms, IT teams can prevent recurrent problems and build systems that are resilient to future challenges. Effective problem-solving in IT is like being a detective. It requires keen observation, logical thinking, and attention to detail. IT professionals must analyze complex systems, identify patterns, and connect the dots to uncover the underlying issues. This process not only resolves immediate problems but also helps improve the overall reliability and performance of IT infrastructure. Common Challenges in IT Problem-Solving In a fast-paced industry where downtime can result in significant financial losses, IT professionals often face tight deadlines to identify and resolve issues. This time pressure can lead to rushed decision-making and potentially overlook critical details. Another challenge is the limited availability of resources. IT teams often have to work with constrained budgets, limited staffing, and outdated technology. These resource limitations can hinder problem-solving efforts, making it difficult to implement comprehensive solutions or invest in advanced tools and technologies.  Also, the complexity of IT systems poses a significant challenge in problem-solving. Modern IT infrastructures are intricate networks of interconnected components, software, and hardware. When an issue arises, identifying the root cause can be like finding a needle in a haystack. IT professionals must possess a deep understanding of the system architecture, data flows, and dependencies to navigate through the complexity and pinpoint the underlying problem accurately. Lastly, the dynamic nature of IT introduces additional challenges. Technology is constantly evolving, and new vulnerabilities, software updates, and user demands emerge regularly. IT problem-solving must adapt to these changes to stay effective. This requires continuous learning, staying up-to-date with industry trends, and actively seeking innovative solutions. An Introduction to Root Cause Analysis Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a systematic approach aimed at identifying the underlying causes of problems. Rather than focusing solely on symptoms, RCA helps uncover the factors that contribute to issues. t seeks to answer the question "Why did this problem occur?" instead of settling for quick fixes. RCA recognizes that problems are often symptoms of deeper issues and strives to find those underlying causes. When conducting a Root Cause Analysis, it is essential to gather relevant data and facts related to the problem. This data can include incident reports, system logs, user feedback, and any other information that can shed light on the issue. It is also necessary to partake in brainstorming sessions with team members. This collaborative approach guarantees that different perspectives and expertise contribute to the investigation, increasing the chances of identifying accurate root causes. The 5 Whys Technique: A Deep Dive The idea behind the 5 Whys technique is to keep digging deeper until the root cause of a problem is revealed. By iteratively asking "Why?" for each answer, IT professionals can unveil the various layers of causality. This approach complements Root Cause Analysis, taking the investigative process even further. How to Apply the 5 Whys in IT Problem-Solving Let's take an example to illustrate the concept. Suppose an organization's website experiences frequent downtime. The initial response might be to blame the hosting provider. However, by applying the 5 Whys technique, IT professionals can explore the issue further. First, they ask, "Why is the website experiencing frequent downtime?" The answer could be that the server crashes frequently. Then, they ask, "Why does the server crash frequently?" The answer might be that the server is overloaded with requests. Continuing this line of questioning, they ask, "Why are there so many requests?" The answer could be that the website's popularity has increased, resulting in a higher number of visitors. Finally, they ask, "Why is the website attracting more visitors?" The answer could be that the organization has recently launched a successful marketing campaign. Through this iterative process of asking "Why?" and exploring the answers, IT professionals can uncover the root cause of website downtime. In actuality, it was not the hosting provider's fault but rather the increased visitor traffic due to a successful marketing campaign. Combining Root Cause Analysis and the 5 Whys for Maximum Effectiveness While both Root Cause Analysis and the 5 Whys technique are valuable on their own, their combination can amplify their effectiveness in IT problem-solving. RCA helps identify the broad causes, while the 5 Whys delves deeper into the specific issues. Together, they enable a comprehensive analysis of the issue and facilitate the development of robust solutions. Case Study: Successful Application of Both Techniques in IT One compelling case study highlighting the benefits of combining Root Cause Analysis and the 5 Whys technique involves a large-scale IT infrastructure upgrade. The initial problem was identified as frequent system crashes, but by applying RCA and the 5 Whys, the team discovered that inadequate cooling systems were overheating critical components. By addressing this root cause, the team was able to stabilize the system and prevent future crashes. Practical Tips for Implementing These Techniques in Your IT Department Now that we understand the power of Root Cause Analysis and the 5 Whys technique, let's explore some practical tips for successfully implementing them in your IT department. Training Your IT Team on Root Cause Analysis and the 5 Whys Investing in proper training is essential to ensure your IT team is equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to apply RCA and the 5 Whys technique effectively. Training sessions can include hands-on exercises, real-world examples, and interactive discussions to foster a deep understanding of the concepts and their practical applications. Overcoming Potential Obstacles in Implementation While RCA and the 5 Whys offer powerful problem-solving approaches, implementing them in a real-world IT environment may present challenges. Obtaining buy-in from stakeholders, managing time constraints, and adapting to organizational culture are potential obstacles to be addressed. By proactively addressing these issues, you can guarantee a smooth integration of these problem-solving techniques in your IT department. In conclusion, effective problem-solving is crucial for IT departments to maintain productivity and provide reliable services. Root Cause Analysis and the 5 Whys technique offer powerful tools that enable IT professionals to uncover root causes, develop targeted solutions, and prevent recurrent problems. By combining these approaches and implementing them in a structured manner, your IT team can enhance problem-solving capabilities and contribute to the seamless functioning of your IT infrastructure. Utilize Root Cause Analysis and the 5 Whys technique for effective IT problem-solving through Wrike. Start a free trial and tackle challenges head-on for better project outcomes. Note: This article was created with the assistance of an AI engine. It has been reviewed and revised by our team of experts to ensure accuracy and quality.

Problem-Solving Techniques and Tips (That Actually Work)
Productivity 10 min read

Problem-Solving Techniques and Tips (That Actually Work)

When faced with a doozy of a problem, where do you start? And what problem solving techniques can you use RIGHT NOW that can help you make good decisions? Today's post will give you tips and techniques for solving complex problems so you can untangle any complication like an expert.

Making Mistakes at Work: What to Do if You're in the Wrong
Collaboration 10 min read

Making Mistakes at Work: What to Do if You're in the Wrong

All of us have felt the fear of admitting when we’ve made a mistake at work. We may be terrified to tell our manager, or nervous about the impact our mistake could have on the business. But mistakes are completely normal and should be viewed as an opportunity to grow. This article aims to provide a deeper insight into why this fear of making mistakes at work exists and how to overcome it. We’ll also provide advice to managers on how to react and problem solve collaboratively as a team.  Why is there a fear of making mistakes at work? Making mistakes at work can be scary. This is especially true if you’re the sole breadwinner of your household or rely on your position for everyday expenses like rent. When the stakes are high, it’s normal to worry about what-if scenarios when something goes wrong. In rare cases, extreme perfectionism is diagnosed as atelophobia which is the extreme fear of making mistakes.  While these are all valid reactions, making mistakes at work can actually improve your relationship with management and provide opportunities for self-improvement. But first things first, you have to adjust your mindset and overcome those fear-based feelings that are keeping you paralyzed.  Overcoming the anxiety of making mistakes at work If you’re like most people, you probably feel a knot in your stomach when something goes wrong at work. It could have been a minor mishap that no one noticed or a major mistake that cost your company a huge sum of money.  Regardless of what happened, overcoming the anxiety of making mistakes at work is the first step to finding a solution. If you skip this part of the process, you may find yourself covering up issues that could have been fixed, making things worse long-term, or even getting found out by your boss. Follow these steps to overcoming work-related stress and bounce back stronger than before after you’ve messed up:  Step 1: Process your emotions It’s natural to feel frustrated and embarrassed when something goes wrong at work. But, after a few seconds, the feeling should pass and you can begin to think logically. If it doesn’t happen quickly, take some time to process these emotions. Talk it out with a trusted friend, voice journal about it in your car, or take a walk outside to get some fresh air before starting fresh.  It can be hard to maintain a sense of balance when you’re upset. Try to make sure that your emotional response is proportional to the mistake you made. Step 2: Keep perspective If you make an error at work, it’s likely not a life-or-death situation. Most of the time, it can be corrected or resolved quickly. If you don’t find the right perspective, your mind may get too focused on the negative consequences of your mistake, which can trigger more errors in the future. Step 3: Acknowledge the mistake If you need to apologize for an error, do it quickly and politely. If it’s a small issue, a sentence or two via email or chat messenger is enough to make amends. If it’s a larger issue, consider holding a meeting or giving your manager a quick phone call. Also, make sure to tell your boss about how you intend to prevent this mistake in the future. Step 4: Review your response It’s so easy to get distracted by all your other goals and projects that you can forget about anything else that went wrong before you got to this point. Taking the time to review your response to the mistake helps you improve in case it ever happens again.  Ask yourself questions. Do you make the same mistake over and over again? If so, what changes can you make to prevent this from happening? Step 5: Practice self-care Getting back into a healthy routine can help you release pent-up energy and prevent making mistakes at work in the future.  To some, the concept of self-care may seem like a trend or luxury. But making sure you’re feeling your best is critical for improving your confidence and your performance at work.  Issues such as sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, and dehydration can lead to mistakes you otherwise wouldn’t have made if you had been taking better care of yourself.  Step 6: Evaluate your own performance The easiest way to earn people's trust is to consistently deliver stellar work. Even though you may have failed in the past, there's still time to move on and create a successful and rich working life. Remember, a mistake or two over the course of an otherwise successful period will not make or break your career.  How should managers react to mistakes at work? Managers are responsible for reacting to and assisting employees with mistakes at work. Even in the most high-pressure situations, doing so with care is not only good for morale but will prevent similar mistakes in the future. How a manager reacts to mistakes at work can make all the difference between transformational leadership and losing otherwise great employees.  Great managers understand that we can all learn from our mistakes. Mistakes help us develop as individuals and as a team.  Great managers can also recognize when they themselves have made mistakes. Before you approach a team member, take a close look at yourself to see if you're really worried about their work. If so, what do you think about their performance? Who is responsible for their work so far?  You may find that you’ve contributed to the environment, the process, or the miscommunication that made the mistake possible. Reflecting on this ahead of time will relieve everyone of playing the blame game and instead solve the problem from a fair and level-headed place.  Additionally, managers should make sure that each mistake is a teaching moment. It may be hard but don't try to fix the problem. Instead, frame it as an opportunity to improve and develop.  When approaching an employee who has made a mistake, start by being curious about it. Ask questions about what happened and what their perspective is on the situation. Use active listening skills when speaking to team members, as it will let them know that you are paying attention. They may fess up immediately. If they take the blame for something that wasn’t their fault, which is pretty common, address that. If they don’t admit to making a mistake, approach the situation with care and focus on the issue, not placing blame.  Give the team members the autonomy to figure it out on their own. Then, provide your feedback in a fair and balanced manner. Afterward, encourage them to learn from it and avoid repeating the same mistake. When communicating with an employee who has made a mistake, in-person meetings are often best. However, many teams are now made up of contractors, gig workers, and freelancers who work remotely so a physical location is not always accessible. If that’s the case, lean on digital tools to illustrate the issue.  For example, reports and individual task assignment lists from project management tools. These can also be used to prevent future mistakes, as managers can easily use them to communicate the actions and behaviors expected of team members and improve the overall work management process.  There may be times when mistakes happen over and over again. If that’s the case, the employee may be engaging in a pattern of behavior that keeps them from performing at their best. Managers can step in and provide ideas for healthy habits that will prevent the same type of mistake from cropping up again.  For example, you can ask a marketing team member to overcome a common marketing mistake of missing a content publishing deadline by writing a to-do list every day. This will help them stay on top of their tasks while also motivating them to finish their work at the same time.  In a nutshell, it’s important to understand that punishment for infrequent mistakes is unfair and ineffective. These mistakes offer opportunities to improve, which both managers and employees can embrace. How to admit a mistake in a professional environment You may end up in a situation in a professional environment where an apology is needed. And when it comes to making mistakes at work, honesty is the best policy. Certain actions can break trust, but an apology can help rebuild it.  In your explanation, it's important to detail why you acted the way you did. It shows that you care about how those around you are affected by your actions. It's important to address the person you're apologizing to by name, regardless of their status. Having an open conversation can help both of you understand the other person better, and it can prevent an insincere apology from happening. If the mistake you made affected someone personally, it's important to validate the feelings of the other person. Having the courage to admit that you're sorry can make a huge difference in how people treat you.  Take responsibility for your actions and have a plan in place for how to make amends before you approach the appropriate person or people.  Having a plan in place shows that you're thinking about how to make things right. You may even want to read about examples of taking responsibility at work and model your behavior on whichever feels appropriate for the situation.  However, don’t get carried away and make promises you can’t keep. It's important to set goals that are realistic so that you can avoid repeating the mistake.  If your apology is accepted, you can then try negotiating a solution by asking the other person to reflect on the situation and consider their feelings.  After you apologize, make a greater effort to keep your promises and not repeat the same mistake. Doing so can help improve the situation and make the other person feel more comfortable. How to learn from mistakes at work It's important to come clean and admit your mistake, but it's also important to move forward with a positive mindset. You'll most likely feel a bit down about your mistake right after it happens. But by learning from it, you can improve and become more resilient in the long run.  Start by creating a plan for improvement. If you made a minor mistake, then creating personal goals and action plans will help you put those lessons into action. You can learn a universal lesson from nearly any situation, no matter how unique it is. For example, if you learned that a mistake was made because of your forgetfulness, implementing organizational strategies to improve your memory could help. Next, keep track of progress over time in a notebook or virtual document. Be sure to note the highlights along with the lowlights. Look for patterns. As they come up, add them to your action plan or personal goals list.  Monitor whether or not these changes have led to better, more consistent outcomes. If not, adjust and keep going.  Lastly, don't be afraid to ask for help if you're unsure which strategy or tool will work best for you. Managers are there to support your performance. If you approach them with honesty and vulnerability, they’ll likely be flattered you thought to ask. They may even offer advice or make changes that will improve productivity for you and the rest of the team.  In conclusion The pressure to perform at a high level can often result in mistakes and inefficient habits. Learn from your mistakes and take ownership of them. Communicate in an open and honest manner. Ask for or provide help when needed and remember that every new mistake is also an opportunity for better performance. How Wrike can help you avoid unnecessary mistakes at work With so many files, folders, updates, and chat threads to keep track of, mistakes are easily made when you try to get through your day without a work management platform. Wrike offers a variety of features to help you stay on top of your workload easily, and avoid unnecessary confusion that can lead to mistakes at work. Full project visibility, including real-time updates and approvals, means that you can ensure every stakeholder is informed of what you're working on, with your tasks going to the correct approver every time. One shared space with over 400 app integrations means communication has never been easier, no matter where you or your team are based. And Wrike's Automation Engine allows you to streamline your processes and automate the time-consuming admin tasks that, when tackled manually, can easily be done incorrectly.  Try it out for yourself with a free two-week trial.

Top 15 Problem-Solving Activities for Your Team to Master
Collaboration 10 min read

Top 15 Problem-Solving Activities for Your Team to Master

Some people may call it a problem, others call it a solution! Problem solving activities are a great way to get to know how your team works (both individually and together) and learn strategies that will help your team quickly react to any obstacles that stand in the way of achieving your project goals.

How to Conduct Pareto Analysis Using Pareto Charts
Project Management 10 min read

How to Conduct Pareto Analysis Using Pareto Charts

The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, states that 80% of the benefit can be achieved by 20% of the work. The Pareto analysis uses this concept to identify which parts of a project can be done efficiently and which can be avoided. It can be used to decide which problems should be solved first. In this article, we’ll explain how to perform Pareto chart analysis and how it can be used to improve any project. We’ll also get into some vital tools you can use to help teams work smarter, not harder.  What is a Pareto chart? The Pareto chart is a visual representation of the most important factors in a given field or project in order to identify and prioritize issues.  In general, this tool can be used to identify the most critical factors in a given product or process. For example, in quality assurance, the Pareto chart helps identify the most prevalent sources of defects. The Pareto chart itself is a bar graph with two axes. The left axis shows the frequency of occurrence, which is the sum of the total number of occurrences and the cost of doing so. The right axis shows the cumulative function of the total number of occurrences. The values for each category are depicted in descending order. And the final total is represented with a line drawn at 80% on the bar graph. Any bars rising above that line are considered the problems that, if solved, would have the biggest impact on the project.  The Pareto chart can be generated by various means, such as creating Excel spreadsheets, statistical software, and online quality charts. What is a Pareto chart used for?    A Pareto chart helps you identify the causes of the various problems and the issues that need to be solved to get the most significant improvement. Here are some of the many ways it can be used: Visually represent project issues to find which have the greatest impact Communicate priority levels to stakeholders  Isolate individual process hiccups so that they can be better understood  Find the most impactful problems and eliminate them before they cause issues  Reallocate workloads so that team members companywide are maximizing their impact and productivity  When to use a Pareto chart in project management A Pareto chart is a tool that many people use to analyze different types of problems. It can also identify the most significant issues in a process. In project management, this means everything from big-picture project phases to individual task workflows.  When roadblocks come up, managers can use the Pareto analysis to quickly identify what is causing bottlenecks or delays. From there, they can use their project management tool to delegate troubleshooting, adjust task lists, or shift priorities without interrupting the entire project.  In addition to making on-the-fly decisions based on real evidence possible, Pareto charts can be used in project management for post-project analysis for both PMOs and stakeholders. Teams can learn from each other and what went wrong in projects with data clearly laid out in this way. In the future, they’ll be able to replicate their successes and mitigate failures.  Stakeholders can easily pinpoint areas of investment that worked out and learn more about how this project was managed so they can feel good about the outcome. In particularly successful works, they’ll be able to see how little interference the project encountered along the way. Or they can see how well the team managed issues that did arise.  This persuasive tactic allows them to feel great about providing repeat business or, at the very least, enrich their understanding of key projects related to their goals for future reference.  How to calculate Pareto analysis The simplest formula for calculating a Pareto analysis is as follows:  [Your total unit of measurement per item, e.g., number of occurrences, hours, cost, etc.] / [the grand total of all items] x 100%  Use this formula for each category. Keep in mind that each result should be a percentage. Afterward, put them in order from highest to lowest before inputting them into your chart-making software.  How to create a Pareto chart Step 1: Collect your data A minimum of 30 data points is best for an accurate picture of the project as a whole.  Step 2: Create a frequency table Use the following headers in this order:  Issue Type Number of Occurrences (listed in descending order) Note: Some programs will automatically generate a Pareto chart for you once you’ve added the number of occurrences or frequency for each issue category.  The rest of your headers may be calculated for you, again depending on the program you’re using:  Cumulative Total  Cumulative Percentage  80% Cut Off Step 3: Label your chart Keep it simple. You can never go wrong with “Types of Project Errors.” Freel free to add a single sentence description that includes the time period of your measurement and any other details that are important to the people you’ll be sharing it with.  Step 4: Clearly label the Y-axis Frequency, total number of occurrences, or even price all work well here. Use whichever value best represents your data set or makes the most sense to you as a manager.  Step 5: Note the categories on the X-axis These should match the Issue Types you first listed in your frequency table.  Step 6: Interpret the chart  Again, the software you use should fill in the other components of the chart, including the bars, lines, and cut-off. From there, you can get to work analyzing the results.  The higher the bars are, the more of an impact they are having on your project.  You’ll see percentages listed on the right-hand side of the chart across from frequency. They should be listed from 100% and counted down in increments of 10 to the bottom. Any bars that cross the 80% line should be considered a top priority for problem-solving.  Pareto chart example This Pareto chart example was created by Clinical Excellence Commission and thoughtfully illustrates the key areas of focus project managers should be aware of.  The areas marked in red and bold are the spaces project managers should focus on when conducting their analysis.  We can also see that the categories on the bottom are great examples of types of medication errors. But project managers may use groupings such as scope creep, resource management, or communication to define a variety of issues that may come up.  The most important line on this graph is the green 80% cut-off, which symbolizes the Pareto principle. Any bar that reaches above that line should be considered the most important issue. In the above chart, that would be “dose missed” at 92% and “wrong time” at 83%. Although “wrong drug” clocks in at 76%, it’s not considered nearly as important as the first two.  For the next steps, the project manager in this particular example would likely solve the issues above the 80% line first before moving on to the next highest scoring category. Alternatively, they could choose to solve the above-the-line problems, then create a new Pareto chart and see if the values have changed. It’s also possible that solving the highest priority issues may fix less pressing issues on your chart down the road as a byproduct.  How Pareto chart analysis can improve your project In general, the Pareto chart helps project managers and team leaders identify the causes of various problems that are having the biggest impact on their work. By figuring out what they are, managers can take the necessary steps to solve them. It’s also easier to determine task and even project or goal prioritization with a chart like this.  If you’re working with third-party partners or stakeholders, the visual aspects of Pareto charts make them easy to understand and interpret. Not only is this highly effective for communicating with non-experts, but it’s also highly persuasive.  How to interpret Pareto analysis with Wrike So you’ve made your Pareto charts and conducted your analysis. Now what? Put your plan into action with Wrike.  Wrike is a project management solution that makes project plans manageable, efficient, and crystal clear. Now that you know what’s going wrong, you can easily add actionable next steps to your project plans without missing a beat.  Start by adding a detailed task to your project. Add a description, deadline, and task owner. Wrike also allows you to see the workload of individual team members across all active projects so you can double-check they’re available before assigning it.  You can also use Wrike’s custom reporting features to identify issue categories for your Pareto chart. Dissect active and past tasks to find the biggest areas in need of improvement during individual project phases or projects as a whole.  In addition to Pareto charts, Wrike also offers Gantt charts and PERT charts that can improve productivity.  A Gantt chart is a bar chart that shows the various tasks and deadlines for a project. It's a great tool for managing time and improving efficiency.  A PERT chart is a network diagram that shows all the project tasks in separate containers. The boxes that make up the PERT chart are organized with arrows to represent the time needed to complete the task. Combining the results of your Pareto, Gantt, and PERT charts will help you turbocharge your project troubleshooting plans and may even prevent future issues too.  Ready to get the biggest results from the least amount of effort? Get started with Wrike’s two-week free trial. 

How to Avoid Poor Communication Skills at Work
Collaboration 10 min read

How to Avoid Poor Communication Skills at Work

Poor communication skills in the workplace often lead to missed project deadlines, unproductive teams, and client complaints. In this article, we’re giving you a cheat sheet you can use to identify and avoid poor communication skills at work. Help both your teams and your stakeholders succeed with these practical solutions to common miscommunications outlined below. Afterward, keep reading to learn more about how Wrike’s project management tool makes staying on top of communication effortless.  What is miscommunication? Miscommunication is a type of communication breakdown that occurs when one party can't provide the proper information to another party for any number of reasons. It’s not always obvious when a miscommunication occurs. Sometimes the realization happens in the moment, so the person can correct themselves. But more often than not, one or both parties don’t realize the error until after something has gone wrong.  What are the different types of miscommunication? Mistakes: Think typos, incorrect information, or simply forgetting to CC another team member on an important message.  Bad writing: Overly verbose messages and complex words or phrases often create more problems than they solve.  Time changes: Employees in different time zones need clarity around deadlines and meeting scheduling that other teams normally wouldn’t.  Cultural differences: One person’s email may seem professional and direct to someone from one culture, yet cold and rude to someone from another.  Language barriers: If you have native speakers and non-native speakers working together, chances are there will be a mistranslation from time to time.  Unspoken expectations: Lack of clear vision or communication of everyone’s responsibilities can lead to finger-pointing down the line.  Over- or under-managing: Leaving employees to fend for themselves and micromanaging their every move are both counterproductive to healthy communication.  Lack of transparency: Giving team members access to big-picture progress reports and related data is important to effective communication in project management.  Assumptions: Even small assumptions, such as thinking an employee will definitely be present and on the clock next week, can cause common project management challenges once you find out you’ve planned a major deadline on the same day as their PTO.  Workplace customs: For example, in some offices, the longtime employees know that arriving to a meeting five minutes early is expected, while others may be used to more lax timing.  What are the common causes of poor communication? From the top down, good communication is key to attracting and keeping good employees. Unfortunately, many leaders are not as good at communicating as they should be. The good news is that managers can easily adjust their actions to better align with their goals by following this simple communication red flag checklist: Ignoring interpersonal conflicts Whether it’s an office romance turned sour or an environment in which employees simply don’t like one another, interpersonal communication plays a large role in project success. Even if your team doesn’t have natural chemistry, it’s leadership's job to help them get along.  Not sharing the big picture It's powerful for businesses to have goals and objectives, as they help employees focus on achieving desirable results. The issue is that many organizations fail to provide clear and consistent direction to their employees. Forgetting to give praise and constructive criticism Feedback is often provided by a project manager to help people understand their performance. It provides vital information to make important business decisions in the future. Top performers regularly utilize feedback to improve their work performance. Point out good behaviors to employees too so that those actions become habits for them in the future.  Not prioritizing employee morale  When employees lose interest in their work, they are often considered demoralized. This can lead to an employee becoming irritable and unproductive, which can affect companywide performance. Restoring employee morale involves reevaluating the culture and thinking about how to create a conducive environment for employees to thrive. Failing to acknowledge differences As more people choose to work in diverse environments, this has raised the potential for communication issues. For instance, one person from a certain background may relay a message differently to another person from a different background. HR training and mediation are key for solving these miscommunications before they get out of hand.  What are the consequences of a lack of communication in the workplace? The consequences of a lack of communication in the workplace are challenging to measure because there are lots of direct and indirect ways it will impact teams. Circumstances matter too. But in general, what we know for sure is that poor communication skills at work are never positive.  According to USA Today, “28% of employees cite poor communication as the reason for not being able to deliver work on time”. Imagine creating the perfect project plan, avoiding and minimizing roadblocks, only to discover completely preventable issues such as miscommunication have derailed your team. Removing the possibility of poor communication from the equation improves project delivery, but it also makes dealing with those other issues so much simpler. Another study by SHRM pointed out that miscommunication within projects was one of the most costly mistakes a business can make. Their research showed “the average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees”.  There may already be examples in your projects of this happening on a small scale. Issues such as incorrect orders, waiting around for other people to make decisions, and even missing a single client email can cost hundreds of dollars for the smallest of businesses. If there’s an issue with your profits, chances are it can be traced back to poor communication in some form or another.  And last but not least, one of the biggest consequences of a lack of communication in the workplace is the destruction of employee morale. A Gallup Journal article pointed out that growth and revenue largely depend on communication between companies and their employees. In fact, “74% of employees have the feeling they’re missing out on company news because the internal communication department is non-existent or doing a poor job.” And when employees feel disconnected from a company’s purpose, they are often disengaged, unproductive, and unmotivated.  Examples of poor communication in the workplace Poor communication planning Bad business communication occurs when a company doesn't have a system in place to deal with incoming orders. Without communication with the customers, the company is likely to lose business. One-way streets A one-way street in this context is when a member of the team only contacts their business associates when they need a favor or some ideas. This behavior undermines their communication skills and breeds distrust or resentment among the rest of the group.  Cold shoulders  A cold shoulder is the equivalent of ghosting someone in the workplace. It typically looks like a person intentionally or unexpectedly declining to respond to calls or emails sent by another team member, manager, client, or stakeholder. Passive-aggressiveness Team members who are passive-aggressive deliberately avoid interacting with their co-workers. This behavior can be caused by intentionally avoiding a co-worker or making off-color remarks that undercut someone else’s efforts. Outright aggression Intimidation tactics can create a toxic work environment. Examples include ultimatums, placing blame on others, and threats to an employee’s financial livelihood. Not only is this unethical, but it also leads to high turnover rates. Placing blame on others A failure to accept responsibility for one's actions shows a lack of responsibility. Believing that others are responsible for their actions shows a lack of compassion and understanding. Neither is productive in the workplace.  Poor listening skills Leaders and employees who fail to listen to others are not only disconnected from their conversations but are also engaging in poor communications. In general, these behaviors can have a negative effect on how people feel about their colleagues and team leaders. While many of these scenarios aren’t too difficult to avoid, they can add up over time.  Some of these actions may not be considered offensive or aggressive on their own. But letting them pile up can create hostility among collaborators over time.  Even if you can’t micromanage every email, text, and call, you can put tools in place that make communication streamlined and transparent.  How to avoid miscommunication in project management Agile development is a favorite among modern software-development teams that want to avoid miscommunication altogether while managing multiple projects. Agile tools such as Wrike help groups work together seamlessly and deliver results faster than those that follow other methodologies. One of the ways it does that is through clear project planning.  Wrike enables you to structure and manage your work in Agile using visual data representations such as graphs and charts. Tools like ours will help you prioritize your backlog and set up sprints, manage your meetings, and report on progress. This allows individual users to organize their own personal workflows and prioritize their backlog for sprints ahead of time.  Wrike also simplifies the process of updating team members. Its activity stream offers a live feed that shows all project updates. Other features such as automated notifications make keeping up with project developments seamless.  Want to improve communication between clients and your team? Wrike’s work-intake forms are designed to help teams organize and manage incoming requests. They also help teams plan and collaborate on shared projects, finding opportunities for overlap whenever possible to save on resources.  When it comes to getting work done, Wrike makes it possible for teams to stay organized. Individuals can update their workflows and share them with others. Doing this makes it easy for management to keep track of progress across the entire team. It also clears up any confusion around roadblocks, project updates, and the occasional PTO.  Wrike also helps teams communicate with stakeholders. For example, users can submit bug reports to external stakeholders who can help solve the problems. Management can adjust settings into project plans so that partners have a peek into progress without seeing any information that is too sensitive.  Even if you only use Wrike’s predefined workflows and dashboards that help monitor your progress, it’s a lot easier to avoid poor communication at work when you use our tool.  Ready to streamline operations and improve productivity teamwide? Start your free two-week trial of Wrike today. 

Problem-Solving Tools to Help Your Business Increase Productivity
Project Management 10 min read

Problem-Solving Tools to Help Your Business Increase Productivity

Keeping your team and projects on track can be difficult without the proper tools to make sure your workflow is streamlined and moving along. Check out our list of quality problem-solving tools and techniques that'll address some common team roadblocks and increase productivity in your business.

Common Project Management Issues You Can Solve With the Right Tools
Project Management 7 min read

Common Project Management Issues You Can Solve With the Right Tools

Project management issues are common, but they don’t have to blow budgets and deadlines. Identify project management challenges and solutions and get on track.

7 Teamwork Terrors and How to Conquer Them
Collaboration 5 min read

7 Teamwork Terrors and How to Conquer Them

Since the dawn of man, teamwork and cooperation has been the preferred method of getting things done. From the pyramids of Giza to the Golden Gate Bridge, we rely heavily on teams of engineers and architects to create such majestic masterpieces. However, where there is teamwork, there is work required to be a team. Too many voices and conflicting opinions can lead to a giant headache and bring productivity to a grinding halt. Throw in egos, politics, and laziness and you've got a recipe for disaster. Here are 7 barriers that harm the harmony of your team: 1. Anchoring Have you ever been part of a group brainstorming session where, once two or three ideas have been shared, new ideas stop flowing and the group sort of shuts down? That’s anchoring. Teams get mentally stuck on the first few ideas and stop thinking of new solutions. Avoid the anchoring trap with these 7 brainstorming tricks, including brain writing. Be sure to keep all types of workers in mind with team building exercises for remote workers, so everyone feels included in the creative conversation. 2. Groupthink This teamwork barrier occurs when a majority of the group conforms to one idea despite their own concerns and insights, perhaps due to laziness, fear of judgement, time limitations, or being subjected to peer pressure from other members of the group. Because this is another common brainstorming risk, techniques like Stepladder and Round Robin brainstorming encourage everyone in the group to share their thoughts before settling on a course of action. 3. Social Loafing "If I don't get around to it, then someone on my team will just do it for me." If you've said this to yourself, then you're guilty of social loafing. Don't pat your lazy self on the back quite yet, you might have just cost your team some valuable productivity! Social loafing is the act of putting in less effort for a team project than you would for a solo task. This forces other team members to pick up the slack and possibility grow to resent you. One way to avoid this is by breaking a project into individual tasks and holding each team member accountable for certain steps. See how Wrike can help you assign tasks and delegate big projects. 4. Unresolvable Conflict Even the most successful teams sometimes experience conflict due to differences in opinion, perspectives, and experiences. However, if there is no way to resolve the conflict, then conflict harms your project's outcome. Unresolvable conflict can be caused by unclear goals and expectations for the project at hand, so avoid it by clearly communicating goals with the team and helping everyone understand their role. 5. Confirmation Bias Confirmation bias is the tendency to only accept information or evidence that confirms your own preconceptions. This bias can quickly become a roadblock when trying to iron out team conflict or justify a decision, and it can potentially lead to the Halo/Horn Effect (see below) and compromise good decision-making. To ward off this bias, challenge your beliefs and play devil's advocate. The Six Thinking Hats technique can also help you see a different perspective on the issue. 6. Halo/Horn Effect The way you perceive an individual strongly affects how you interact with them. If they made a poor first impression, or an offhand comment rubbed you the wrong way, you may have a subconscious bias against them. When that individual voices an opinion, you might automatically be more critical than you normally would. This can work to the opposite effect too. When someone you like shares their opinion, you might have a tendency to agree. When making big team decisions, try to be aware of this bias and focus on the best outcome for the team. 7. Overconfidence Effect Your perceptions and experiences inevitably shape who you are — but they can also lead to subtle mental biases that result in flawed decision making. The Overconfidence Effect happens when you accept or reject an idea based purely off a hunch with no evidence to back you up. (In fact, studies show that entrepreneurs are more likely to fall for this mental fallacy, rejecting others' ideas because of the false belief that they know what's best.) Don't fall for this mental trap! Always research new information and seek objective evidence to combat confirmation bias (and hopefully learn something new as well). What other teamwork barriers have you experienced? We'd love to hear how you resolved your teamwork troubles in the comments!

Creative Problem Solving for Product Developers (Infographic)
Productivity 3 min read

Creative Problem Solving for Product Developers (Infographic)

Innovation isn't extraordinary anymore — it's expected. Product managers are facing saturated markets where every competitor is releasing new products and features at a quicker pace, each scrambling to beat the others to launch. Creativity is more essential than ever for product developers to capture consumers' attention, outpace the competition, and find ingenious solutions to customer needs.  Many people view creativity as a gift: either you have it, or you don't. But as this infographic shows, creative problem solving is a skill you can learn — and master. The 9-Step Process for Creative Problem Solving  1. Identify your users' pain points. 2. Gather as much information as possible about the problem. 3. Examine the data to look for patterns. 4. Walk away. Let your subconscious form connections and find solutions. 5. Capture ideas as soon as they hit you. Once you have a handful, evaluate to choose the best one. 6. Set your solution apart from the competition. Write a value proposition that clarifies how your idea captures customers' attention more effectively. 7. Create a plan for executing your chosen idea. 8. Get to work! Time to make that idea a reality. 9. Track your results for continuous improvement.  Take a peek at the full infographic for tips on writing a Strategic Positioning Statement, the best ways to let an idea incubate, and why the best problem solvers have "T-shaped minds." Source: Mashable Ready to connect the dots? Find out how Wrike helps product development teams deliver amazing results, faster than ever.  Read Next: 3 Lessons on High Performing Teams from TED Talks 5 Lessons in Lean Product Development from the Wright Brothers (Infographic)

Introducing the 5 Whys Technique of Problem Solving
Project Management 5 min read

Introducing the 5 Whys Technique of Problem Solving

The five whys technique is a problem-solving method that helps you get to the root cause of a problem. Here’s how to use it to benefit your projects.

5 Tips to Make Collaborative Problem Solving Work for Your Team
Collaboration 5 min read

5 Tips to Make Collaborative Problem Solving Work for Your Team

By taking on collaborative problem solving with clear goals, leaders are more likely to discover smart, creative solutions to help the team progress in its mission. Here are 5 tips that can make the difference in coming up with powerful, collaborative problem solving techniques that work for your unique projects.

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