Problem Statement

Problem statements are an extremely important part of process improvement projects. They clearly define the problem, how often it occurs and what the impact is.

Keep in mind that a problem is something that you need to solve, so if you already know the reason that your problem is occurring you probably don’t need to run an improvement project to solve it. However be careful that you are not just speculating on the root cause as this is an easy trap to fall in to early on.

A good problem statement should:

  • Be brief and to the point, not more than a couple of sentences.
  • Should be easy for anyone to understand, so avoid technical terms
  • Use data to quantify the problem
  • Highlight the cost of the problem

Developing a problem statement

A great way to develop a problem statement is to start with how you know there is a problem. There must be something that has triggered your awareness of a situation, more than likely you have seen some basic data such as a consistent red marks on a performance dashboard. If you just have a feeling that there is a problem then you must get some kind of data to prove your suspicions otherwise it will be very difficult to get others to buy-in to your project. 

As we develop the statement we are looking to tick all the “should haves” that we mentioned in the previous section along with the data you have now gathered. Ideally your data should include a financial impact, this will help management to buy-in to the project and support it.

Example format

Below is a format that we have used on many problem statements. 

There is a problem that [describe the problem using the known data], which has resulted in [describe the known impact of the project and include financial information where possible].


There is a problem that in 2019 30% of operations projects missed their deadlines, which has resulted in a total unplanned cost of €45k and the loss of one client

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