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Problem Definition – The foundation of Effective Problem Solving

The problem identification task is about really asking the question, what problem are we solving and we’re looking to try to answer.

But before we can identify the particular problem and really understand that we first need to understand how does this gets initiated? How does the problem identification task get started? What causes us to start looking into this? Well, there are really two ways that this can be initiated. Number one is through the organization or client. This is done through some type of request. The other source of problem identification there from a self-initiated discovery and kind of move forward to understand, is there value in fixing that or adjusting for that potential change?

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Below you may find four tips for the most effective Problem Identification

  1. Don’t Start with the Solution

It’s very important to only focus on the problem and the structure of this problem at the step of problem identification. Just naturally, as we hear a problem, we start brainstorming and thinking through the solution. However, in that way probably fail to identify the real problem.

  1. Find the root cause

It’s not only about identifying the problem but it’s about identifying the right problem and really getting to the root of the problem. What I mean by that is one problem may actually be the effect of another lower-level root problem. A common technique used is the 5 whys. The method is remarkably simple: when a problem occurs, you drill down to its root cause by asking “Why?” five times

  1. Keep it Simple

Simplicity does not mean a lack of understanding. It may mean a good solid understanding. Try to approach any complex situation by breaking it down into more simple elements.

  1. Exploit the collective wisdom and synergies

None can go far alone. We need collective wisdom and accepting different perspectives. It’s the only way a complete understanding of the problem to be achieved. Don’t forget to leave yourself open to different ideas and perspectives that may be contrary to your established beliefs and thinking patterns.

As a business analyst, there are many cases where the customer comes up with claims on changing something, like changing something in a standard process by inserting an approval step. Instantly we naturally try to find a solution contrary to trying to identify the real problem. Instead of instantly focusing on the solution alternatives trying to figure out what is the real problem can really provide a path towards meaningful solutions that will provide value to users.

Identifying the real problem and determining it in the most effective way is the fundamental step for having an effective solution. Problem identification is the first step of the rational process of problem-solving.


Giorgos Sioutzos

Giorgos Sioutzos is working at business consulting industry as a business analyst. He holds a BSc in Management Science and Technology from Athens University of Economics and Business and Msc in International Business & Management from ALBA Graduate Business School. Numerus articles about business and technology issues have been published in most reputable Greek and foreign media. Certifications: CCBA, PRINCE2, ITIL Bio - Short.