Project Management

Craft a Better Problem Statement

Jamie Flinchbaugh

If there were a single skill that I could extract from problem solving and get into the hands of people all over the world, it would be the ability to craft a good problem statement. This is one of—if not the—most valuable skills.

Put five to ten people into a room to engage on a problem. Ask everyone, “What is the problem?” You will get as many answers as you have people. This speaks to its value of a good problem statement because how can you possibly have a team of people collaborate effectively on solving a problem if they cannot even agree on what the problem is?

Crafting effective problem statements not only improves problem solving but it helps the many close cousins of problem solving, such as creating goals and objectives, designing metrics, leading innovation, selling something, developing a strategy, and designing products. Each of these is a form of problem solving, and each depends on well-framed problem statements.

What Is a Problem Statement?

No one should bring a proposal forward without determining what problem they are trying to solve. This should become a habit for your organization, and it should become an expectation from leaders. The easiest explanation of a problem statement is the existence of a gap between the current condition and the expected condition. The expected condition could be a clear standard of how a …

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"A nod's as good as a wink to a blind bat"

- Eric Idle, Monty Python's Flying Circus