Problem statement

Problem solving


Temitope Adeyanju Written by Temitope Adeyanju · 1 min read >

It is until you identify a problem, that you can find solution; merely attempting to solve symptoms of the problem will not take the problem away.

For example, you suddenly start to perceive a foul smell in your room; you quickly use air freshener, and the bad smell subsides. If you do not check out what is really causing the smell, it’s a matter of time; you might be in for trouble. In fact, the smell may be a signal or symptom of an impending danger.

The example above, highlights the importance of problem identification. There is need for more deliberate approach; that involves using logical argument to link observed data to root cause and ultimately a solution.

Creating effective logical solution starts with a clear description of problem, unfortunately, for many managers, this is where ‘the problem is: finding the problem’.

Importance of stating or framing the problem correctly.

Where you do not correctly frame from the beginning, the following can happen:

  1. Worsen the negative consequences
  2. Prolong the problem
  3. Create new problem
  4. Increase the cost of addressing the problem
  5. Waste of limited resources such as time, finance and so on.

Therefore, to avoid these issues above; it is important that managers learn to correctly diagnose, frame, and correctly state the problem they intend to solve.

A good problem statement has five basic elements as follows:

  1. It references something the organization cares about and connect same to a specific goal. Your ability to do this shows the importance of the problem; where you cannot pin the company’s overall mission to a problem then it might not be important.
  2. A good problem articulates the gap between current situation and the desired situation.
  3. It quantifies the key variables: the target, current state, and the gap. This supports a clear path to an effective project.
  4. A correct problem statement is neutral as much as possible about possible diagnoses or solution to the problem.
  5. A good problem statement is small in scope. The idea is, the problem is to scope to a specific manifestation of the larger issue that you care about; such that, quick feedback is possible.

Major pitfalls to avoid in problem statement

  1. Failing to formulate the problem: Many times, people assume that they already know the problem; as such, stating or formulating the problem is sheer waste of time. Therefore, they prefer plunging into solution immediately. This is a trap that you must avoid.
  2. Problem statement as diagnosis or solution. That is to say, the problem statement presumes the diagnosis or generally solution. If the solution or diagnosis is part of your problem statement; that suggests you did not fully approach the situation logically. This mistakes commonly reinforce existing disputes.
  3. Lack of clear gap: The problem here is, lack of engaging in clear mental contrasting; creating no clear path to logical provision of solution. Where there is no clear gap, poor solution of one size fits all solution may be provided. This often does not give a desired result.
  4. The problem is too big: On many occasions, business problem appears too big; if we scope down and find specific manifestation of the problem that creates the biggest headaches; it becomes easier to tackle others.

In conclusion, your ability to formulate correct problem statement is essential and you can learn it, it only requires practice.

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