Why use a Problem Statement?

It is widely believed that writing a good problem statement is one of the most critical parts of any improvement project — you can't solve a problem if you don't know what the problem is.

A problem statement is used:

  • To significantly clarify the current situation by specifically identifying the problem and its severity, location, and financial impact.
  • To convince management to provide resources to solve the problem and enlist team members to assist you.
  • As a communication tool, a Problem Statement helps to get buy-in and support from others. When problem statements are well written, people readily grasp and understand what you're trying to accomplish.

What is a Problem Statement?

A problem statement is a clear concise description of the issue(s) to be addressed.

How do we do it?

A good problem statement should include:

  • A brief description of the problem and the metric used to describe the problem
  • Where the problem is occurring by process name and location
  • The time frame over which the problem has been occurring
  • The size or magnitude of the problem

A problem statement should NOT include:

  • Blame
  • Causes of the problem
  • Solutions to the problem
  • Bias

You must be careful to avoid under-writing a problem statement. A natural tendency is to write a problem statement too simplistically because you're already familiar with the problem. If you're going to recruit support and resources to solve your problem, others have to understand the context and the significance in order to support you.

Example