The Problem Statement

The fourth tool that I want to look at is the problem statement, and the goal statement. And again, very useful for an improvement team to get together to help define the problem in a way that everyone can understand and buy into. So the problem statement summarizes the issue that we’re trying to address in three or four sentences. And we ask the questions, what is the business problem? What are the consequences of the problem? Who is affected? And how? What are the impacts of the problem on the process, on the organization and on the customer? If possible, we should quantify that to give it real weight. We should avoid trying to identify the causes of the problem at this stage or the solutions. We’re simply trying to define the problem in a way that everyone can get to grips with. And the problem statement will often look like this example here. Certainly The x y Zed process is deficient in some way. This results in specific problems for customers and specific problems for the organization. If we can’t define the problem in two or three sentences, then we don’t understand the process or its problems well enough. And an example problem statement here from a company whose deliveries were not meeting the required window. The problem statement that they came up with is as follows. Currently, our delivery service is unreliable, with 20% of items not arriving in the delivery windows specified to the customer. An average of 40 customer complaints a day relate to poor delivery performance. This results in dissatisfaction and frustration for customers, significant compensation costs, and a loss of future sales. So there we have defined the problem in a few sentences in a way that anyone outside the improvement team can see that there is a real problem here that’s trying to be addressed. And this brings us to the goal statement, which is effectively the opposite of the problem statement. And it should also comprise a couple of sentences. So the goal statement is a short vision statement of what we’d like to achieve by addressing the problem. What would we like the process to achieve? What will the impact be on customers and the organization? How will the key metrics be impacted by the improvement and we may set targets there. And so for the delivery company example, their goal statement was to consistently reduce the number of deliveries outside of the specified window to less than 5%, reducing customer complaints and reducing compensation claims due to poor delivery performance to 10% of the current level.