Problem Statement

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Problem Statement - short version

To define a problem for a problem-solving team. Once the team has been formed, they should create or be given a problem statement to direct their problem-solving efforts. To help clarify the direction whenever the team seems to be moving off-course. Some organizations have the leadership team create the problem statement and use that to determine team membership.

Problem Statement - long version

A problem statement is a concise description of the issues that need to be addressed by a problem solving team and should be presented to them (or created by them) before they try to solve the problem. When bringing together a team to achieve a particular purpose provide them with a problem statement. A good problem statement should answer these questions:

1. What is the problem? This should explain why the team is needed.

2. Who has the problem or who is the client/customer? This should explain who needs the solution and who will decide the problem has been solved.

3. What form can the resolution be? What is the scope and limitations (in time, money, resources, technologies) that can be used to solve the problem? Does the client want a white paper? A web-tool? A new feature for a product? A brainstorming on a topic?

The primary purpose of a problem statement is to focus the attention of the problem solving team. However, if the focus of the problem is too narrow or the scope of the solution too limited the creativity and innovation of the solution can be stifling. In project management, the problem statement is part of the project charter. It lists what's essential about the project and enables the project manager to identify the project scope as well as the project stakeholders.

In research a worthy problem statement is the description of an active challenge (i.e. problem) faced by researchers and/or practitioners that does not have adequate solutions available including the argumentation for its viability based on solid peer-reviewed sources as well as theoretical foundation. The research-worthy problem statement should address all six questions: what, how, where, when, why, and who. On the other hand, a statement of the problem is one or two sentences claim that outlines the problem that the study addresses. The statement of the problem should briefly address the question: What is the problem that the research will address?


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