Project Management

Craft a Better Problem Statement, Part 2

Jamie Flinchbaugh

Our previous article — “Craft a Better Problem Statement” — provided practical guidance on creating more effective problem statements.   

There are many observable failure modes when it comes to crafting problem statements. The most obvious is that we include the solution in the problem statement. “Needs to be automated” or “lack of proper equipment” are types of phrases we must watch out for. There are many times where the problem solver truly does adopt a problem statement—such as “We need this software”—but that’s not what they write in the template. The problem statement for them is just a thought, a thought about the need for a predetermined solution. That problem statement shapes the rest of the work, and even though they write something that sounds more like a problem statement in the template, all their work was indeed driven by the included-solution problem statement.

Avoiding too many causes, or causes with large leaps, in the problem statement is another failure mode. It is extremely hard to avoid this all the time because often, even with the most experienced practitioners, the observation of linkage is very clear on the first cause. For example, you might want to improve productivity, but the observations have made it obvious leading up to problem solving that …

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