How Problems Are Presented

Problems are often first presented as “aches and complaints”. lt is typical to first describe a problem in terms of causes, or solutions, or blaming statements. These descriptions will camouflage the real problem.

Clarifying the Issue/Problem

To have a problem suggests that there is a gap between what a person hopes or expects and what actually exists. lt is the description of this gap that comprises the problem.


Problem Statement

What It is…

  • A statement that describes an observable gap
  • It can also include a description of the magnitude of the problem (if this information is available)
  • It describes the impact of the gap on the business

What It Doesn’t Do…

  • It doesn’t describe the cause of the problem
  • It doesn’t assign a blame
  • It doesn’t prescribe a solution

Problem Definition

A problem is the fluctuation of a required feature in the final product (output of process)

The attribute can be assigned to one of the categories:

  • Quality,
  • Availability (Quantity/Time), or
  • Utilization of Resources.

Problem Definition: Questions You Need To Answer

  • What’s the gap or need?
    • What’s happening that’s not supposed to happen?
    • What could be happening? (opportunity)
  • Why is this a problem?
    • What is the impact of this problem, opportunity?


Originally stated Problem:

Put in place a series of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for new equipment because of excessive downtime, loss of quality, high learning curve.
Project assumes a solution. SOPs may end up being a solution, but we don't know yet. We still need a better description of the gap.

Draft #2

Lack of a plan to commission new equipment.
Second iteration now talks about the lack or gap, but still assumes a solution (a "plan")

Draft #3

Historically, when new equipment is installed: 1) the amount of downtime
exceeds expected standards, 2) the percentage of rejects exceeds expected standards.
Much better! This problem statement does not promote a cause or solution. lt just describes what happens or happened. The resultant scope will increase, but at least we won't miss any factors.

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