Not sure how to write a problem statement? Wondering what elements make up a good problem statement? We will answer all your queries related to the topic. Read along to find out more about what is a problem statement and why it matters.
The art of writing can be used in many ways for different purposes. Be it a formal letter or an email, each writing style serves a significant purpose. Hence, learning how to master these styles is the key to success in this day and time.
No matter what your job, at some point you will be required to conduct your assignment through formal writing. That being said, it’s hard to run away from learning about the different types of writing. It may seem difficult to accomplish if you start with a pessimistic mindset; however, it can be learned and perfected through nothing more than dedication and practice.
Writing is a skill that is essential for everyone. Be it someone in high school or a CEO running a multinational corporation, your ability to write says a lot about who you are and your potential. Hence, don’t take it lightly and make sure you keep yourself up to date about the different forms of writing.
Many companies even assess the performance of their employees on the basis of their writing skills. This is especially true when companies are relying on individuals to assess problems effectively and propose viable solutions. In such scenarios, one has to know how to write a problem statement.
Knowing how to write a problem statement is a demonstration of your problem solving skills and your ability to handle and resolve complex and unanticipated challenges. Therefore, it is essential that you have a good understanding of how to write a problem statement and in case you don’t, we have got you covered. In this article, we shall share all the tips and techniques related to writing a problem statement and make you a pro at it in a short amount of time.
What is a problem statement?
A problem statement can be defined as a concise description of an issue that needs to be addressed. This statement identifies the current state, the future state and any gaps that may be present between the two. It is an important tool that helps communicate the problem to all the people working on a project or assignment where the problem has emerged.
When a time sensitive issue emerges,the problem statement is of big help in helping explain the current problem places that require reevaluation. This statement is completely objective and based on facts and observations without any room for subjective opinions.
A good problem statement consists of answers to the 5Ws i.e. who,what,where,when and why. If your statement lacks a proper understanding of these aforementioned questions,it can be deemed as unsatisfactory and you may be asked to rewrite it. Answering these questions is necessary because it makes it easier to not only write the statement ,but also comprehend it therefore making the issue solvable.
This statement in addition to highlighting the pressing issue is a lead-in to a proposal of a timely and effective solution.
Why is a problem statement important?
Problem statements are an important communication tool for many entities and businesses to propose and develop projects focused on improvement. In order to solve a problem, you need to have a clear understanding of what exactly is the problem at hand, and why it is important. Spreading this information amongst your employees is equally necessary to come up with a timely solution.
Furthermore, a problem statement helps identify the goals and outlines the scope of the project. It plays a vital role in guiding the decisions and activities of the people involved in the project. A problem statement can help a business or organization gain support and buy-in for a process improvement project.
A problem statement is also known for helping individuals maintain focus and ensure that the project team is right on target. At the conclusion of the project, the statement is evaluated to ensure that the adopted solution does indeed resolve the problem. It can also help with root-cause research which helps one figure out why the problem occurred and what can be done to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
Parts of a problem statement
A lot of people struggle to understand how a problem statement needs to be written. Depending on the nature of the problem and the objective,a problem statement can be from anywhere to a single to multiple paragraphs. In case you aim to write a brief statement make sure it consists of the following four elements:
The first element of any problem statement is the “idea”, the term refers to that part of the statement where you describe the goal or the objective relating to the situation at hand. You need to explain how the problem will be handled and the significance of the problem.
You need to explain the issue in depth without leaving out any details. Evaluate the effects of the problem and the gaps in this part. The effects can be based on research related to short or long term goals. It should explain how this problem is affecting the overall efficiency of the project or projects related to it.
Once you have clearly identified the problem,it is time to move towards solutions. You are required to share the problem statement with your colleagues or those associated with the project so they can start evaluating possible solutions. Also look for feedback regarding the statement at this point. Make any changes if necessary to further clarify the issue. Make sure a proper plan of action is devised and it addresses the problem properly.
How to write a problem statement?
Now we come to the most important part of the article. In this section,you will learn how to write a problem statement using a simple guide. It is recommended that you go through this part of the article at least twice until you are sure that your concepts are clear.
Next you will require some practice before you are able to write a satisfactory problem statement. Don’t rush when writing,take your time to answer the 5Ws, do your research and rewrite parts of your statement where necessary.
Follow the guide below to learn more about the art of writing a problem statement.
Clarify your vision
Before moving towards deciding how to solve a problem,you must be clear about what you are trying to accomplish. For that reason,you must write a short vision statement. This statement is a representation of your objective. In other words, it will tell the reader what it is that you are trying to accomplish by solving the problem. Moreover,by writing this statement, you will be able to evaluate your steps to ensure that your plan will help you make progress towards your vision and whether your problem-solving efforts were successful or not.
Don’t forget to include the benefits of solving the problem.Take your time when writing a vision statement to ensure that it is clear,concise and specific to the problem you are aiming to resolve. You may want to review a few samples of strong vision statements to get your started.
Define the problem
The second part of your problem statement is aimed at defining the problem. To help clearly define the problem, you need to write an issue statement. This statement should have the following characteristics:
- Describes the problem with clarity
- States why solving the problem is important
After all, one cannot solve a problem without being sure what it really is. It doesn’t have to be a few sentences long.What matters is that you have clearly identified and described the issue at hand for others to hand. The part of your problem statement is significant because people tend to go back and forth to this part in order to come up with a viable solution.
Determine the context of the problem
Now, you must consider and define the contextual concerns related to the problem. In simple words, you need to carry out thorough research to determine how this issue impacts multiple divisions within the company or different functions within the organization. You can also state how it affects the workers personally, how it’s impacting them and their ability to get work done.
In this part of the statement you can also talk about any previous attempts that may have been made to resolve the issue.Was the solution viable? Did it make the issue worse or better and what do we need to do differently to ensure that the problem does not occur again. In short, all of this information will play an important part in determining how to move forward.
Identify its impact
You must identify the impact before you start jumping towards a solution. Consider how significant or widespread the problem is. Is the impact so momentous that it is affecting the overall revenue generation of the company? Problems with such a wide impact are of high priority to the company which then aims to resolve it as soon as possible.
However, money is not the only thing that needs to be considered.The scope of the impact is equally important. Determine whether the issue is affecting a few employees or more than a few employees. Has this in any way impacted your customer and if yes,to what extent? Is the problem likely to affect multiple stakeholders in the near future? The larger the impact, the more significant the problem is.
Make a business case
It is essential that you write your problem statement in a persuasive manner. Your task here is to convince the decision makers that the problem brought to their notice must be resolved. This is why it is necessary that you pull together sufficient and factual information to determine the impact and context of the issue. In other words, this information will allow you to build a rationale for taking action.This is often referred to as making a business case for action.
To further convince your audience, you need to include some statistics, facts and even at times an emotional appeal or other such rhetorical tools. You need to make a good case in front of the decision makers to prove to them that it is absolutely necessary for the problem to be resolved. And always include the part that states what will happen if the problem persists.
Identify the gap
Once you are sure that you have completed all the above mentioned parts of the problem statement and that too in an effective manner, it is time to move forward.The next part of your problem statement requires you identify the gap between the current situation i.e. the problem and the future that you seek i.e. the vision. The ultimate goal of problem solving is to ensure that this gap has been closed.
After you have identified what needs to be rectified in order to move from where you are to get to your desired vision, then you will be able to come up with material strategies that can help you make a difference. Thus, identifying this gap is important as it helps narrow down an approach you wish to take to resolve the issue.
Explain the causes
It is just as essential to determine the reasons for the gap as it is to determine the gap itself. This shall provide you with necessary insight about what factors must be addressed in order to close the gap. Figuring out the reasons for this gap is necessary because they can help you resolve the issue at the grass-root level to ensure that it does not occur again.
For example, your employees are absent from work too often. First you need to figure out the cause for this absenteeism. Once you have determined the cause, then you can move towards proposing a solution to help resolve this issue.
You may be speculating a number of causes that led to your issue. Hence, make a list of potential causes and explore them and determine which cause has the most significant impact. Only once that is determined can you move forward with resolving the problem.
Select a problem solving method
This part of your problem statement is evidently crucial. It is essential that you be as clear and to the point as possible. That is because this is where you convey to the audience the method and steps you will take to resolve the problem.
Make sure to review this part again and again before sending in a final draft. The decision makers would want to determine how viable your solution is. They want to ensure that you’re just as interested in resolving the problem as you are with pointing it out. Hence, make sure that your solution is workable, it isn’t too costly and is a long term solution and the only solution for the issue. Make use of factual data and statistics to prove your credibility to the decision makers.
Don’t dwell into unnecessary details in this part, stick to the solution so that it stands out from the other parts of your problem statement.
Mention the next steps
At this point, you have successfully completed a major portion of the statement. You have pulled together necessary information that shall assist you in resolving the problem. The next step is to describe how you need to move forward toward solving the problem. Simply explain what comes next.
Do you require extensive primary and secondary research? Are you aiming to put together a committee that shall help you resolve this problem. What kind of resources will you need? Make sure you clearly list the potential cost of the project. You may also include additional information such as which software application you plan to use or the location of the project.
Also add a timetable that clearly indicates when you will start working and how long it will take before the project is successfully completed.
Review the 5Ws and 1 H
It is essential that you review and verify your work. Proofread your statement before sending it to the concerned department. Determine whether your statement answers all the necessary questions. These questions include who, what, where, when, why and how. The answers to these questions must be incorporated within the problem statement at all costs. If either one is missing, your problem statement is lacking necessary information required to resolve the issue.
To make the task easier for you, here is a list of questions you can use to determine whether your statement consists sufficient information:
- Who is affected by the problem?
- What would be the outcome in case the problem is left unresolved?
- Where is the problem taking place?
- When will the problem be fixed?
- Why is it important for the problem to be fixed?
- How will the problem be resolved?
Be sure to also check the grammar, spelling and sentence structure of the problem statement. You may think these mistakes don’t matter but they do and can affect the overall credibility of your work.
Here are a few additional tips you may follow to make your problem statement effective:
- Make sure that the statement is to the point and does not dwell into unnecessary details that may take the audience away from the main agenda
- Each and every word should reinforce the importance of your statement,the context of your statement and its impact
- Emphasizing on the “why” aspect of your problem statement is crucial. It shall determine whether your problem statement will be considered as important by the concerned department or not
- Always narrow down the scope of your statement. Do not list down multiple problems in a single statement. It might put off the decision makers and you will have a hard time finding a single solution for those multiple issues. Hence, start with the single most important problem that needs to be addressed. You can address the other issues later.
- Avoid using highly technical language or jargon. This isn’t an english assignment, the point of writing this statement is to make the other person understand and if you are unable to do that, you have failed to achieve the purpose of writing the statement. Hence, stick to simple language.
- Always back your statement with necessary facts and figures. They are important enough to make or break the deal for you. Building your dependability in front of the reader is always essential in order to be heard and to be taken seriously.
Along with these few essential tips and writing methods mentioned above, you will be able to perfect the skill in no time. It requires some time, effort and most importantly practice to master the art of writing a problem statement.
Don’t shy away from asking for help, ask your colleagues or anyone else you may trust to assist you when needed. Especially when it comes to proofreading, it is always a good idea to have a second pair of eyes look at your work. You would be surprised at how we sometimes miss out on a few minor or major mistakes we may have made. This is how one learns, thus, always be open for some constructive criticism.
Writing a problem statement is an essential skill that should be learned regardless of your age or occupation. Whether you’re a student in college or a professional with a job, this skill will always come in handy. Make sure you develop a clear understanding of how to write a problem statement before getting started. If at any point you have any confusion, go through the article again and clarify your understanding of the topic. To start with, make up a scenario where you have been assigned the task to resolve a major issue. Brainstorm ideas, follow the above listed format and draft your statement. This technique will help you become a pro in no time.