7 Powerful steps to define a business problem

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” — Albert Einstein

Well-defined problems lead to breakthrough solutions. Solving problems has never been more important for business and society. Problems are larger, more complex, and moving faster than ever. Knowing how to define a problem is a core skill. If the genius Einstein tells us that defining the problem is the crucial part of the problem-solving process. It emphasizes the importance of problem definition, and it also shows defining a problem takes time.

In most cases, a problem statement is given by your boss, colleague, or client to solve. The shared problem statement can be vague, unclear, and ambiguous. An example of vague problem statements: “I want to increase the revenue.” It does not tell us; how much to increase the revenue, for which products or the timeframe within the revenue needs to increase.

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The process of problem-solving

The problem definition process clarifies the points to focus on. The problem definition process helps to visualize the problem, by presenting it from different angles and to help define the broader context and associated problems.

Implementing the Problem Definition Process is especially effective when all stakeholders are involved. In this way, one can develop valuable insights about the size of the problem and its possible consequences.

Take the time to define the problem clearly.

Our instinct guides us to jump into solution mode immediately, even before we understand the problem. This approach commonly caused more problems — mainly because the real problem was never addressed or defined. In all scenarios, a clear understanding will help to solve the problem.

Talk to people

In the process of problem-solving talking to people give a good insight into the problem, the cause of the problem, the potential solution, or how the problem can be prevented in the future. Here are a few tips:

  • Empathy: Empathy is the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes. You need to figure out the effects of the problem and why it matters. This is only possible when you know, what it is like to experience their experience.
  • Listen: Sometimes we are focused on solving the problem, do not take the time to understand the true problem that people are experiencing. To hear what people have to say can make a difference.
  • Have an open mind. Consider that your view of the problem may be completely different from others. By approaching and asking with an open mind, it can give you new perspectives.

Sometimes people do not want to talk, be creative take them for a drink or call at times that suit their schedules. A conversation can make a difference in finding the problem and the solution. Do not underestimate a good conversation.

Step 1. Define the problem

Getting a crystal‐clear definition of the problem you are solving is the critical starting point. Problem-solving failures can be traced to poor problem definition. There must be one definition in this phase the definition. So, attack the problem definition from different angles. The more ways you can define a problem the more likely it is that you will find the best solution.

  • What is the problem?
  • How did you discover the problem?
  • When did the problem start and how long has this problem been going on?

Step 2. Clarify the Problem

Once you have the bigger picture of the problem. The next step to clarify the problem. In some cases, a small problem can become a big one with inappropriate actions. In all cases, real clarity will expedite the path ahead.

  • Is it a top priority to resolve the problem at this point?
  • What is the biggest pain point ?”
  • What data is available or needed to help clarify, or fully understand the problem?
  • Are additional resources required to clarify the problem?

Step 3. Define the Goals

It is required to understand the purpose of solving the problem.

  • What is your end goal or desired future state?
  • What will you accomplish if you fix this problem?
  • What is the desired timeline for solving this problem?

Step 4. Identify Root Cause of the Problem

It is important to find causes of the root, rather than treating a symptom. If you don’t get to the root, the problem will likely recur, probably with different symptoms.

  • What information or data is there to validate the root cause?
  • What are the possible causes of the problem?
  • What are the effects of this problem?
  • Have you faced this problem before?

Step 5. Finding solutions.

The more possible solutions you develop, the more likely you will find the right one. A solution does not have to be unique. By observing others can help you to find a solution to the problem.

  • Which potential solutions have you tried to solve the problem?
  • What actions can we take to prevent a recurrence of the problem?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of this solution?
  • Which actions need to be taken to solve the problem?
  • How have other departments or companies handle this problem?

Step 6. Execute the solution

Develop Action Plan to execute the solution properly. Make a list of all the activities that are required. There must be assigned an owner and a timeline for each activity.

Step 7. Set a measure for the solution.

To determine whether the solution has solved the problem, a measure is needed. In this step monitoring and collecting data is necessary to tell if described goals are achieved and if side effects have occurred. In a complex system, problem solutions regularly have unexpected consequences that are much worse than the original problem. Problem-solving is an iterative process. If the problem is not solved, go back to step 1.

The ability to define a business problem and solving it. It is a skill that is been valued in any work field. Problem-solving is also known as street smart.



A Data scientist that writes about Data Science, AI and ML. Get in touch: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hibo-m

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