Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tunnel Vision Doesn't Always Work

I've been a consultant for a long time now. While I probably don't read as much of it as I once did, I still read a lot of IRS guidance (I know, that makes me a boring person, but somebody has to do it). In fact, in this business, a lot of us read a lot of IRS guidance, so I guess we are all boring people. But, the point of this post has nothing to do with being boring, it's about solving problems.

You see, lots of IRS guidance is extremely complex. So, there are two ways of reading that guidance -- you can either know the 20% that applies to 80% of the problems, or you can learn the other 80% as well that might apply to the other 20% of the problems.

We get accustomed to solving problems using that first 20% and that's what I am referring to as that tunnel vision. But, for those of us who have learned the rest of the guidance, sometimes we have to look outside that tunnel for a solution.

I've faced such a situation in the last day or two and for obvious reasons, I can't disclose the details. But, without going into any detail, I'll provide an overview.

Client X is reviewing certain of its benefits and compensation programs. They have a very specific problem and they have a pretty good idea what the optimal solution looks like. So, I went back to the law and thought about what its original purpose was. From there, I concluded that if the regulations matched at all with that original intent, then while we might not hit the optimal solution, there should be a big improvement.

Voila, there in the regulations, it looks like there was an answer. But, it wasn't in the 20% that lots of people know. It was in the other 80%. In fact, it was buried about as deeply in the other 80% as one could put it.

Not all of us take the time to read and understand the other 80%. But, if you do, you might as well take the opportunity to use that additional expertise. Perhaps we might say it's where we get by taking a different route -- outside of the tunnel.

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