In both professional and personal realms, challenges are a constant presence. The ease or difficulty of finding solutions hinges on various factors and the problem’s complexity. In business settings, prompt and efficient problem-solving is paramount. Consequently, the adoption of problem statements has become a prevalent practice among teams, serving as a valuable tool whenever they encounter challenges that demand resolution.
What Is a Problem Statement?
A problem statement serves as a concise yet lucid depiction of a challenging situation within a project, demanding attention to propel the project toward successful completion. This statement comprises a detailed account of the existing predicament and envisions the desired state once all issues are effectively resolved. Additionally, it delves into addressing five pivotal questions pertaining to the problem: who is affected, what precisely is the issue, when did it emerge, where is it most pronounced, and why does it necessitate immediate attention? Crafting a well-defined problem statement is paramount in guiding project teams toward efficient problem-solving and project advancement.
Teams utilize the problem statement as a roadmap for their problem-solving endeavors. It delineates the route the team should traverse from the current situation to the desired result. During the project’s progression, the team may frequently consult the problem statement to ensure they remain aligned with the correct course of action.
In the upcoming sections of this article, we will furnish you with a range of problem statement examples, demonstrating their practical utility. These instances will impart valuable guidance on crafting a sturdy problem statement customized to your distinct situation, empowering you with the proficiency to tackle your unique challenges.
When to Use a Problem Statement
Problem statements are useful for getting past any situation that presents a challenge. It is very effective in helping teams fully understand a problem, allowing them to create the most viable solutions. Problem statements also give valuable data that prove vital when making project-related decisions.
With that being said, here are the typical situations when using a problem statement would be a helpful move.
When You Need a Clear Picture of the Expected Results
Problem statements serve a dual purpose, extending beyond problem identification to illuminate the envisioned outcome. When tackling a problem, having a precise understanding of the desired results is pivotal for effective problem-solving. Well-crafted problem statement examples consistently incorporate a lucid depiction of the intended outcomes. By examining these examples, it becomes evident that they not only pinpoint the issue but also provide a clear vision of the ultimate objectives, facilitating a focused and efficient approach to problem resolution.
When the Team Requires a Guide for the Project
While certain projects are straightforward and demand swift solutions, others involve more complex routes from point A to B, and unexpected challenges can arise. In such cases, a well-crafted problem statement serves as an invaluable project roadmap, maintaining team focus and guiding everyone toward the ultimate goal, preventing distractions and detours along the way.
How to Write a Problem Statement
The process of writing a problem statement can vary, but in general, three main steps are involved.
Identifying and Understanding the Problem
This phase alone may require more time than anticipated by many individuals. Frequently, what appears to be the problem is merely a superficial manifestation of the underlying issue. It’s essential to conduct an in-depth investigation to unearth the genuine problem, and this necessitates access to relevant information.
Hence, the initial phase involves gathering information from diverse sources. It is crucial to note that crafting proficient problem statements involves addressing five pivotal inquiries regarding the issue: who, what, when, where, and why. During the data collection process, the primary objective is to furnish comprehensive responses to these five essential questions.
There are many ways to get this data. You can communicate directly with the employees about their work or interact with customers to find out what their issues are. You can obtain data from reports and existing research. You can also just observe the work environment. In any case, gathering all this information would help you not only in identifying the problem but also in gaining a thorough understanding of it, which allows you to create a better problem statement, which is the next step.
Framing the Problem
With all the relevant information now at hand, you can proceed to the actual creation of the problem statement. While making your draft, keep in mind that you must maintain objectivity and not include any personal opinions or cognitive bias anywhere in the statement. Here are some helpful tips to remember when framing the problem:
- Delve deep to make sure you are describing the actual cause of the problem instead of just one of the symptoms.
- Broaden the scope of the statement to encourage creative thinking rather than discreetly pointing the way to just a single solution that you prefer.
- Hone in on the main problem and identify it clearly rather than trying to include several different problems in one statement, which would only cause ambiguity and confusion.
Refine the Problem Statement
In the second part, you have come up with a problem statement, but take note that this is just a draft. You have to be open to the possibility of having to redo it multiple times until the statement is perfectly refined and suitable for the situation. So how do you refine it? A very effective way is to look at it from multiple points of view.
Typically, the problem statement would have been created from the viewpoint of the stakeholder. But you must also consider the problem from the perspective of someone who is not connected with the stakeholders at all. Is the statement clear, and is the root cause of the problem identifiable?
This is the perfect time to get input from your team if you haven’t done so already. Their fresh perspective will be helpful in clearing up ambiguities and opening up new discussions, which are all helpful for improving the quality of your problem statement.
2 Examples of Problem Statements
The process of creating problem statements can be lengthy, but the statements themselves must actually be as simple and as concise as possible. All the essential components must be tackled in one sentence.
Problem statements can also be very different in terms of length and inclusions as the structure would depend on the nature of the problem. To illustrate, here are a couple of problem statement examples that you can examine and use as a model for creating your own.
Dealing with Onboarding Issues
Problem: The current process of onboarding new employees is inefficient and time-consuming, leading to delays in productivity and increased administrative burden on the HR department.
This very clearly identifies the inefficiency of the onboarding process as the problem. It also mentions how the problem impacts the rest of the organization by causing production delays and giving HR personnel more work than what they ordinarily have.
By providing a clear and concise definition of the problem, the statement opens the door to a lot of possible solutions. Also, in this sample statement of the problem, there is a clear sense of urgency that is being conveyed. This would spark the interest of stakeholders and encourage them to take timely action to solve the problem.
We can also see that the five components are all answered in this problem statement:
- Who are the affected stakeholders? These are the new employees.
- What is the situation? The process lacks efficiency and the desired state is a better onboarding process.
- When does this happen? It covers the entire onboarding process, which takes up much longer than is ideal.
- Where does the problem take place? It affects the entire organization but most of the burden is on the HR department.
- Why is the problem worth solving? Solving the problem would eliminate productivity delays and reduce the load on HR personnel, ultimately leading to better overall business performance.
Inefficiencies in the Healthcare System
Problem: The current healthcare system in our country faces significant challenges in providing equitable access to quality healthcare services, leading to disparities in health outcomes among different populations and inadequate management of chronic diseases.
Again, the presentation of the current situation is very brief but perfectly clear, immediately making a beeline for the healthcare system’s discrepancies in providing fair services. The statement also pinpoints this problem as one of the reasons for the inequalities in health status of people from different demographics and poor chronic disease management, indicating that these are the most crucial aspects that must be addressed in the solution to the problem. These highlighted disparities in healthcare and chronic disease management underscore the urgency of addressing these systemic issues. By focusing on these core aspects, the problem statement steers the team toward a targeted and effective problem-solving process, ensuring that these pressing challenges are comprehensively addressed for the benefit of all.
In this sample of the statement of the problem, the five components are all addressed, although not all of them are explicitly included in the statement.
- Who are the affected stakeholders? The problem directly affects the members of the population who are unable to receive sufficient healthcare services because of the currently inadequate system.
- What is the situation? Right now, quality healthcare is not equally accessible to everyone. The desired situation is for everyone, regardless of demographics, to be able to get access to quality healthcare when they need it.
- When does this happen? It is an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed in a timely manner because of its urgency.
- Where does the problem take place? It is not explicitly mentioned, but by referring to “the current healthcare system in our country,” it can be surmised that this is a nationwide problem.
- Why is the problem worth solving? Solving this problem is of paramount importance as it holds the potential to not only provide every individual with the quality healthcare, they rightfully deserve but also to elevate the overall health status of the county’s population. Additionally, it promises to enhance the management of chronic diseases, leading to a healthier and more resilient community.
FAQs about the Problem Statements
What makes a good problem statement?
An effective problem statement is distinguishable by its capacity to ignite creative thinking, inspiring the team to explore diverse avenues for potential solutions. Importantly, it refrains from predisposing the team towards any specific strategy, ensuring an unbiased and open-minded approach to problem-solving. Furthermore, it serves as a catalyst for a comprehensive and in-depth problem-solving process, discouraging the team from opting for mere surface-level or temporary "Band-Aid" solutions, and motivating them to pursue more enduring and well-founded resolutions.
What are the 5 components of a problem statement?
A problem statement consists of the 5 W’s. The "who" refers to the stakeholders impacted by the problem. The "what" includes the present situation, the ideal situation, and the needs that must be met. The "when" refers to the relevant timeframe. The "where" pinpoints the location of the problem. Finally, the "why" describes the reason for the problem in the first place and how it has affected the organization. Not all components need to be literally included in the statement; they must be identified to create a truly comprehensive statement.