Project management header
products page

Problem statement

No hurdles, no problem just a goal

It is important that the project team agree on the problem.
A poor definition of the problem will always cause ambiguity and confusion and personnel will be unsure of the purpose of the project.
Projects usually have a goal and that is to produce the final product.

All projects will have issues or problems that must be overcome in order to produce the final product.
If there are no hurdles in getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’ then there is no problem, only a goal.

For every problem it is rare that only one solution will exist.
So, at some point, several strategies will require review.
The SWOT analysis, is one good system to identify a list of possible options.
This list can then be reviewed to choose the best one.
A simple method for doing this is covered in the section on problem solving [see Problem Solving - part 1].

Open-ended … no single correct answer

If a problem is open-ended then there are multiple options for its solution.

Closed-ended … single answer

If a problem is closed-ended then there is only one possible option for its solution.

Write the problem then consider other angles

In order to better define the problem it might be useful to perform an exercise.

It’s a good idea to start with each person writing down an independent summary of the problem.
Individuals should then question this more widely by coming at the problem from different angles.
For example:

  • Think of another way of defining the problem.
  • What are the key factors?
  • If I only had me to think about how would I do it?
  • If there was nothing to hold me back I might approach it this way.
  • From a different point of view the problem could be defined like this.
  • A completely alternative approach might be.

For example if you were considering the problem: ‘What is the best way to get to Australia?’

You may approach is from the perspective of: ‘How can we build a ship to get to Australia?’

The aim of these approaches is to encourage lateral thinking and get away from traditional concepts.
After each individual has considered the problem from these perspectives they could then revisit and modify their original Problem Statement.

The next thing to do is to write a Problem Statement based upon the individual views having agreed upon any areas of difference.

The Problem Statement is then recorded in the Project Notebook.

Non - PRINCE2 information