The key to a good problem definition is ensuring that you deal with the real problem – not its symptoms.
However, if you look a bit deeper, the real issue might be a lack of training, or an unreasonable workload.
help you ask the right questions, and work through the layers of a problem to uncover what's really going on.
There are four basic steps in solving a problem: Steps 2 to 4 of this process are covered in depth in other areas of Mind Tools.
For these, see our sections on Creativity for step 2 (generating alternatives); Decision Making for step 3 (evaluating and selecting alternatives); and Project Management for step 4 (implementing solutions).
The articles in this section of Mind Tools therefore focus on helping you make a success of the first of these steps – defining the problem.
A very significant part of this involves making sense of the complex situation in which the problem occurs, so that you can pinpoint exactly what the problem is.
At this stage, it's also important to ensure that you look at the issue from a variety of perspectives.
If you commit yourself too early, you can end up with a problem statement that's really a solution instead.
Quite often, what may seem to be a single problem turns out to be a whole series of problems.
Going back to our example, substandard work could be caused by insufficient skills, but excessive workloads could also be contributing, as could excessively short lead times and poor motivation.