Problem solving, Tips

Analysis of Business Problems – Problem Statement

Osasu Oviawe Written by Osasu Oviawe · 1 min read >

This is the second of an eight-part series on the analysis of business problems. See part one here.

A problem statement is a concise description of the gap between the current situation and desired situation. It is an answer to the question – What is the problem here? It helps to ensure focus, alignment of stakeholders, and measurement of the effectiveness of solutions.

The IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) prescribes that a problem statement should have the following attributes: clear, concise, measurable (if possible), factual and visual.

Einstein is quoted as having said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”

The quote highlights the disproportional weight that should be given to understanding a problem before exploring any solutions.

As part of human history, we have learned to provide solutions quickly, because there is no time to think through a problem when a lion is charging at you. But not all business problems are like a lion charging at you. If they are, you should leave that business. For most business problems, considered thought is required.

Problems reveal the quality of our thinking, our biases, our experiences, our solution toolkit, our capacity, and our capability.

We see the problem we are perfectly designed to see and ignore the unfamiliar.

Problems are designed to reveal who we are in the most basal way, but this revelation can be of no value without reflection.

To harness the value in a problem, a framework that cuts through our thinking limitations is required.

A framework that helps is 5-Why brainstorming. It is not a single-player exercise but requires consultation with individuals with domain expertise.

A 5-Why is an iterative exploratory process of cause-and-effect until a verifiable root cause is reached.

You start with the business context, and you ask your first why?

You then check your answer for corroboration by reality. If reality supports the answer, you ask another why? If reality does not support the answer, you stop that thought trail and search for other whys.

You generally keep asking why? whenever reality supports your answer until you get to the 5th why?

You can have more than five why? questions before getting to the root cause, but it usually shows that your business context was not well-defined.

You can also have less than five why? questions and get to the root cause, but it usually shows that you had a bias for the root cause even before your analysis.

When you arrive at the root cause from the 5-Why analysis, you can then build your problem statement by adding where the root cause occurs, when it occurs, and the impact on the business.

The more concise your problem statement, the clearer your solutions will be.

We will discuss objectives in the next installment of this series.

#MEMBA11 #ABP #Zazparelli

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