Project Management

Problem Analysis

last edited by: Teresa Lawrence, PhD, PMP, CSM on Apr 5, 2018 10:54 AM login/register to edit this page

1 Applications
2 Procedures
3 Instructions
4 Example

A technique used to examine all the elements and factors that hinder an organization from achieving its objectives. The purpose of problem analysis is to reduce these constraints to the core problems and put aside the myriad details. There are numerous techniques which supplement the process, including Kepner-Tregoe (see Decision Making), Root Cause Analysis, Benchmarking, and Variance Analysis.


  • To reduce the number of customer problems identified.
  • To test and verify probable causes.


  1. Conduct interviews to determine customer problems.
  2. Document interviews.
  3. Review all candidate problems.
  4. Remove duplications, and generate a problem listing.
  5. Develop a wide range of challenge statements using a divergent thinking tool, and then a convergent thinking tool to narrow, confirm and select a challenge on which to focus.
  6. Develop a problem summary.
  7. Analyze problems.
  8. Identify next steps.


Analysis of customer needs (see Customer Needs Analysis) begins with understanding the value stream work activities as a source of producing customer satisfaction. Once the customer interviews have been conducted, a list of problems can be generated for analysis. The first step is to review the interview documentation and mark the key phrases that identify problems. Once all the interviews have been marked, prepare a list of all the problems. Redundancy is acceptable at this point. Number the list so that the identified problems can be traced back to the interviewee. Remove redundancy by placing the first problem statement in a category. Read the second problem statement. Ask the question: "Is it similar to the first?" If so, place it in the same category, and go to the third problem statement. If not, place it in its own category, and go on to the third problem statement. Repeat this process until all statements have been placed in a category.

Review all the statements in a category to ensure that they are similar. Extract a list of unique problems, numbering them for traceability back to the original interviewee. This allows the detailed notes on the interview to be located quickly. It also ensures that the team has complete understanding of the consolidated problem list. The diagram that follows shows this process. After the problem list is generated, the analysis can proceed two ways. The first is to develop generalized problem statements that reflect all the statements in that category. To check the problem summary statements, confirm with the original interviewees. If the statement does not match what the interviewee meant, revise the summary statement to reflect the true meaning of what the interviewee was trying to communicate. Prioritize the statements; the ones mentioned most often should be at the top of the summarized list. The second way to proceed is to apply Root Cause Analysis to enable effective action. Both approaches are depicted in the following example.


problem analysis

last edited by: Teresa Lawrence, PhD, PMP, CSM on Apr 5, 2018 10:54 AM login/register to edit this page

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