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Solving the right problem

A problem statement is a description of an issue to be addressed or a condition to be improved upon. It identifies the gap between the current problem and goal. The problem statement should be designed to address the Five Ws. The first condition of solving a problem is understanding the problem, which can be done by way of a problem statement.

Problem statements are used by most businesses and organizations to execute process improvement projects.

The main purpose of the problem statement is to identify and explain the problem. This includes describing the existing environment, where the problem occurs, and what impacts it has. Additionally, the problem statement is used to explain what the expected environment looks like.

Another important function of the problem statement is to be used as a communication device. A problem statement helps with obtaining buy-in from those involved in the project. Before the project begins, the stakeholders verify the problem and goals are accurately described in the problem statement. Once this approval is received, the project team reviews it to ensure everyone understands the issue at hand and what they are trying to accomplish. This also helps define the project scope, which keeps the project concentrated on the overall goal.

The problem statement is referenced throughout the project to establish focus within the project team and verify they stay on track. At the end of the project, it is revisited to confirm the implemented solution indeed solves the problem. A well-defined problem statement can also aid in performing root-cause analysis to understand why the problem occurred and ensure measures can be taken to prevent it from happening in the future.

It is important to note that the problem statement does not define the solution or methods of reaching the solution. The problem statement simply recognizes the gap between the problem and goal.

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