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Problem Statement…Got One?

Defining the problem well is a very important step in solving any problem.  Yet, in coaching problem solving, problem statements are very rarely written well or even understood.

There are five components to a well written problem statement:

  1. What is under performing?
  2. What is the actual performance?
  3. What is the needed performance?
  4. Why does this need to be addressed?
  5. What will be affected by solving this? (Safety, Quality, Delivery, Cost, Morale)

Example: Number of critical software issues in testing was 13 and needs to be at 0 because the software can not be released until the critical issues are resolved which delays the cost savings and increased revenue of using the new software.

(Color coded to show the components of the problem statement).

There is a clear understanding of what is wrong, where the performance needs to be and why it is important.

As a team works on solving this problem, they can always bounce their root cause and potential countermeasure against this statement to see if they are delivering on what is important.  The team always knows how they are affecting the business (reducing cost and increasing revenue).

“The software has too many issues to release,” is not a good problem statement.  What kind of issues?  How many?  What are the repercussions of the issues?

This is the type of statement that I see way too often.  As you can see, there are too many questions to get a clear understanding of the problem.

A well written problem statement will get a solid problem solving process started on the right foot.