Of course, I understand the desire to jump right into production, but I also understand the wisdom in stepping back and gaining an understanding the problem before trying to solve it. Right, I've heard all about cut/measure ratio. Like in many controversies, this is a false dichotomy. Turns out that depending on your business strategy, industry, and product, typically as much as 60% of all market needs gathered have straight forward solutions with no problems produced. I suppose before I say there are no problems, we should agree upon what a problem is.
The first attribute of a problem is the need for change. All problems have a current state, and a desired state that is different. The transition from the current to the future state may have nothing preventing it, it's just a matter of doing it. But wait a minute, when we say 'nothing preventing it', does that include resource availability, enough time, and investment? These types of things can also constrain our journey from the current state to the desired state. This introduces the notion of types of problems like business, market, user experience, and technical problems.
The second attribute of the problem is the resistance to the transition between states. The greater the resistance, the greater the problem. Some problems stem from technical resistance, others cultural resistance, while still others a business resistance. You'd be surprised by the number of problem statements I see that never state the resistance or conflict caused by trying to transition between states. Every problem statement should identify the conflict. Without a conflict, it's at best an enhancement request, not a problem statement.
The last paragraph implied that problems produce varying degrees of resistance between states. The third attribute of the problem is the quantification of this resistance. Just as you may experience different resistance traveling the different paths from point A to point B; the path you choose to get to your destination impacts the resistance experienced. The third attribute is the path your willing to take.
I find that the 'IF THEN' construct works well in explaining the need for change. An example might be, 'If I start my car, then my dog starts to whine.' Notice that this statement doesn't identify the desired state. Perhaps a way to avoid this ambiguity of what's desired would be, 'IF I start my car, THEN it should start without hurting my dogs ears.' Ok, so where's the resistance attribute in the statement?
The resistance to the desired change is captured in the form of 'IF THEN, BUT'. Many times resistance isn't identified by the same people capturing the IF THEN component of the problem definition. With the example above, we've add, 'IF I start my car, THEN it should start without hurting my dogs ear, BUT low frequency starters wear out sooner, and require too much battery capacity.'
Another construct that can be important is the 'IF NOT THEN, BUT'. Many organizations require both constructs in their problem definition process.
The path is identified by placing the problem statement in different categories. The TRIZ methodology suggests five levels to problem solving aligned with the amount of resistance you are willing to accept. This triaging is the first step in maintaining a balanced opportunity pipeline. By properly categorizing the problem statement, into one of three portfolios or categories, you are able to reduce the number of full problem statements you need to write.
60% of your problem definitions should be categorized as 'Maintenance & Utility' types, and only consist of the 'IF THEN' statement. These typically will be routed for Level 1 and Level 2 types of innovation. Level 1 uses no innovation, and is addressed through routine design problems solved by methods well known within the specialty. Level 2 requires minor improvements to the existing product using methods well known within the specialty.
30% of your problem definitions should be categorized as 'Enhancement & Improvement' types, and consists of the 'IF THEN BUT' statement. These typically will be routed for Level 2 and Level 3 types of innovation. Level 2 requires minor improvements to the existing product using methods well known within the industry. Level 3 requires fundamental improvements to the product using methods well known within the industry.
10% of your problem definitions should be categorized as 'Transformational', consists of the 'IF THEN BUT' statement, and also requires a new business case to be developed. The other two categories of problems are linked to existing business plans. Setting out to address these 'Transformational' type problems is going to require a business case and maybe modification to the product strategy. These typically will be routed for Level 3 and Level 4 types of innovation. Level 3 requires fundamental improvements to the product using methods outside the industry. Level 4 requires a new generation of a product that entails a new principle for performing the product's primary function.
Level 5 innovation requires a new product innovation charter and is outside of the typical innovation team.