Writing an Effective Problem Statement

Writing an Effective Problem Statement

Businessman writing a positive conceptAccording to Wikipedia , a problem statement is a concise description of the issues that need to be addressed by a problem solving team and should be presented to them (or created by them) before they try to solve the problem.

In project management, the problem statement is part of the project charter and defines what the problem is so that they the project team and stakeholder can focus their attention on solving the problem. It is important to have a good problem statement before starting eliciting requirements for a solution. A good problem statement should answer questions such as:

  • What is the problem?
  • Who has the problem?
  • Where does the problem occur?
  • When does the problem occur?
  • What does the problem impact?

A good problem statement should be:

  • Concise. The essence of your problem needs to be condensed down to a single sentence. A reader of the project statement should be able to say “Aha!! Now I now understand the problem.”
  • Specific. The problems statement should focus your thinking, research, and solutions toward a single population or issue.
  • Measurable. Problems can be measured in terms of degree and frequency. The strongest problem statements incorporate measurable aspects of both the degree and frequency of the problem as it exists.
  • Specify what is Impacted. The problem statement should identify the population affected by the problem.

Let’s examine the steps for creating a good problem statement.

  • Write down your problem or current state. Don’t worry too much about quality at this point – simply making a start is significant.
  • Expand on the problem by asking the following questions:
    • Who does it affect / does not affect?
    • What does it effect / does not affect?
    • How does it effect / does not affect?
    • When is it a problem / is not a problem?
    • Where is it a problem / is not a problem?
  • Re-write your problem statement based on those answers. It may consist of several sentences or a set of bulleted items.
  • Try to revise the bulleted list or initial problem statement into a single clear sentence. This might take a couple of attempts but stick with it. Finally, review your new problem statement against the following criteria:
    • Focused on only one Problem.
    • One or two sentences long.
    • Does not suggest a Solution.

You should now have a concise and well balanced Problem Statement ready for a brainstorming session. It should be unambiguous and devoid of assumptions. It will enable you or your group to focus in on the problem and provide the foundation for the team to begin work toward solutions that truly fit.

3 Comments

    • This is awesome! Thank You so much

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