Top 10 Problems with Problem Statements

By Jon Miller Published on November 8th, 2007

The problem with problem statements is that hardly anyone knows how to correctly formulate a problem statement and instead they put a lot of information there in place of sound arguments and justification for action, and people would be better off leaving the writing of problem statements to professionals.
The preceding is a bad problem statement. Let’s look at why. Below are top 10 common problems with problem statements. Problem statements are poor when they:
1. Assign a cause
2. Contain the solution
3. Are based on conjecture or belief rather than fact
4. Are too long
5. Do not describe actual current condition or problem condition
6. Do not describe the ideal or desired condition
7. Are not measurable
8. Are unclear
9. Are not specific
10. Refer to issues outside of the scope of the actual problem
Can you spot how many of these errors were made in the opening paragraph to this article?
Charles “Boss” Kettering of General Motors Corporation is said to have said “A problem clearly stated is a problem half solved.” These may be some of the truest words uttered by a GM executive.
In our eagerness to solve problems we often forget to spend enough time in the Plan phase of PDCA, solidly grasping the situation. The power drill of the 5 why process only works when it is address to the correct surface at the correct angle. Do the reverse of the 10 errors above on your next A3 or problem solving exercise and you will be happier with your results.

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