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Problem Definition Formats

If you use a common format to define problems, then you will be enabled to correctly compare and rank the value between various projects that are competing for resources, but you need to overcome the tendency to define problems without sufficient attention to perspective, levels of detail, and bias.

It has been said repeatedly and in some variation or other, that defining the problem well is half the effort of coming up with the solution. Since problem definition is so important, it makes sense to be as rigorous in the language, and format of the definition, when it’s time to put the results of problem discovery or hypothesis into a problem statement.

A well stated problem enrolls support for a project and attracts the appropriate resources to it. But, a problem well stated in a standard way is even more beneficial.

Standard Problem Definition Format

Problem definition is conducted using a variety of proven techniques. No matter if you use SMART, Six Sigma’s Five Whys, or just common sense to define the problem, a problem stated in a standard way enables leaders to better evaluate and rank projects to which precious resources will be allocated.

Like houses in the picture, standard problem statements may exhibit different colors and accessories, but they should be crafted using the same architecture.

A Standard Problem Statement Format Proposal

To improve the clarity of your project purpose, try this format to begin expressing meaningful problem statements:

  • IF…the desired outcome is achieved
  • THEN…this benefit will be realized
  • BUT…this is the primary conflict driving the need for resolution

“IF the front steps are lowered or replaced, THEN those with mobility challenges will be more likely to rent, BUT a change to the front entrance needs to be easier to navigate and attractive to all renters.”

Value of a Standard Problem Statement Format

Upon restating the purpose of each project in a standardized project statement format, the company executives now have a better idea of what each project addresses, and the benefits and considerations that affect their business. Hopefully, each project also includes research data from past and potential renters regarding how they value low or no front steps, lower gas bills, and being able to choose a carpet color.

Using a standard format to express a validly constructed problem statement will help you to correctly rank the various projects to invest in, and enroll your sponsors and stakeholders in supporting your projects, with the resources and participation they need. It will foster better understanding of your project purpose among your project team members as well, and serves as an anchor when the winds of scope change begin to blow.

Problem Validation and Verification
Define Acceptance Criteria


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Tuesday, 25 September 2018
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